Newsgroups: alt.revisionism,soc.history Subject: Holocaust Almanac - Gernstein & the Polish Extermination Camps Summary: The Gerstein statement, outline of Reinhard camps Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org Followup-To: alt.revisionism Organization: The Old Frog's Almanac, Vancouver Island, CANADA Keywords: Lines: 307 Archive/File: people/g/gerstein.kurt/poland.002 Last-Modified: 2002/06/19 "For unknown reasons, probably because of a shortage of rolling stock, the project was not carried out in the USSR but in Poland, for the most part in the territories annexed to the Reich, but also in the Government General, and always with the capable cooperation of Viktor Brack's 'people.' [Note: Poliakov here refers to the euthanasia 'experts'. knm] The first camp, Chelmno, near Lodz, began operations in the annexed territory in December 1941; it had a maximum rate of a thousand executions a day. Chelmno as yet had no permanent gas chambers; only a large garage on an isolated piece of property containing several 'gas trucks' similar to those going up and down the roads of invaded Russia. In March 1942 the completion of the Belzec camp, with a daily rate of several thousand executions, made a real start on the 'final solution' possible; with the completion of Sobibor and Treblinka in May and July 1942, respectively, 'production' speeded up still more. All these camps were under the supreme authority of Odilo Globocnik, who had the help of a team of euthanasia technicians directed by Christian Wirth.<20> They had been 'loaned' to Globocnik by Bouhler and Brack, on the express condition that these indispensable specialists would be returned when the euthanasia campaign started again in the Reich.<21> It should be noted tha the Maidanek camp, near Lublin, was not an extermination camp proper, but a work camp - that is to say, a delayed extermination camp where according to the conclusions the commission of investigation of the Polish Government, over 200,000 Jews, as well as non-Jews, died during 1943 and 1944.<22> (Auschwitz, as we shall see, combined these two methods.) The victims are no longer alive to testify; the executioners have also disappeared or gone into hiding. Among the few statements that we have on the wrokings of these camps is one from an SS chemical engineer closely involved in the development of methods for mass murder. It is an indication of the hellish darkness into which the Nazis plunged Germany that this same man had unquestionably been an active anti-Nazi and had been imprisoned in 1936 for an offense against the security of the Reich; from 1942 on he had tried to alert the world to what was going on through Swedish diplomats and other channels. But the name of Kurt Gerstein will always be associated with the manufacture and distribution of the 'Cyclone B' gas. Here, then, is his story, written in an uncertain French: (5) In January, 1942, I was named chief of the Waffen SS technical disinfection services, including a section for extremely toxic gasses....One day SS-Sturmbahhfuehrer Gunther of the RSHA came into my office, dressed in civilian clothing. I did not know him. He ordered me to get him 100 kilos of prussic acid and to go with him to a place known only to the truck driver. When the truck was loaded, we ledt for Lublin (Poland). We took along Dr. Pfannenstiel, occupant of the chair of hygiene at the University of Marburg. SS Gruppenfuehrer Globocnick was waiting for us at Lublin. He told us, 'This is one of the most secret matters there are, even the most secret. Anybody who talks about it will be shot immediately.' He explained to us that there were three installations: 1) Belzec, on the Lublin-Lwow road. A maximum of 15,000 people per day. 2) Sobibor (I don't know exactly where it is), 20,000 people a day. 3) Treblinka, 120 kilometers NNE of Warsaw 4) Maidanek, near Lublin (under construction). Globocnick said: 'You will have to disinfect large piles of clothing coming from Jews, Poles, Czechs, etc. Your other duty will be to improve the workings of our gas chambers, which operate on the exhaust from a Diesel engine. We need a more toxic and faster working gas, something like prussic acid. The Fuehrer and Himmler - they were here the day before yesterday, August 15 - ordered me to accompany anybody who has to see the installation.' Professor Pfannenstiel asked him: 'But what does the Fuehrer say?' Globocnick answered: 'The Fuehrer has ordered more speed. Dr. Herbert Lindner, who was here yesterday, asked me, 'Wouldn't it be more prudent to burn the bodies instead of burying them? Another generation might take a different view of these things.' I answered: 'Gentlemen, if there is ever a generation after us so cowardly, so soft, that it would not understand our work as good and necessary, then, gentlemen, National Socialism will have been for nothing. On the contrary, we should bury bronze tablets saying that it was we, we who had the courage to carry out this gigantic task!' Then the Fuehrer said: 'Yes, my brave Globocnick, you are quite right.'' The next day we left for Belzec. Globocnick introduced me to SS [Wirth?] who took me around the plant. We saw no dead bodies that day, but a pestilential odor hung over the whole area. Alongside the station there was a 'dressing' hut with a window for 'valuables.' Further on, a room with a hundred chairs, [designated as] 'the barber.' Then a corridor 150 meters long in the open air, barbed wire on both sides, with signs: 'To the baths and inhalants.' In front of us a building like a bath house; to the left and right, large concrete pots of geraniums or other flowers. On the rood, the Star of David. On the building a sign: 'Heckenholt Foundation.' The following morning, a little before seven there was an announcement: 'The first train will arrive in ten minutes!' A few minutes later a train arrived from Lemberg: 45 cars with more than 6,000 people, Two hundred Ukrainians assigned to this work flung open the doors and drove the Jews out of the cars with leather whips. A loud speaker gave instructions: 'Strip, even artificial limbs and glasses. Hand all money and valuables in at the 'valuables window.' Women and young girls are to have their hair cut in the 'barber's hut.'' (An SS Unterfuehrer told me: 'From that they make something special for submarine crews.') Then the march began. Barbed wire on both sides, in the rear two dozen Ukrainians with rifles. They drew near. Wirth and I found ourselves in front of the death chambers. Stark naked men, women, children, and cripples passed by. A tall SS man in the corner called to the unfortunates in a loun minister's voice: 'Nothing is going to hurt you! Just breathe deep and it will strengthen your lungs. It's a way to prevent contagious diseases. It's a good disinfectant!' They asked him what was going to happen and he answered: 'The men will have to work, build houses and streets. The women won't have to do that, they will be busy with the housework and the kitchen.' This was the last hope for some of these poor people, enough to make them march toward the death chambers without resistance. The majority knew everything; the smell betrayed it! They climbed a little wooden stairs and entered the death chambers, most of them silently, pushed by those behind them. A Jewess of about forty with eyes like fire cursed the murderers; she disappeared into the gas chambers after being struck several times by Captain Wirth's whip. Many prayed; others asked" 'Who will give us the water before we die?' [A Jewish rite] SS men pushed the men into the chambers. 'Fill it up,' Wirth ordered; 700-800 people in 93 [Transcription note: This figure appears to be incorrect. The original gas chamber consisted of 3 units of 3 units, while those installed in mid-1942 consisted of 10 units. See http://nizkor.org/hweb/orgs/israeli/yad-vashem/yvs16-03.html and http://nizkor.org/hweb/orgs/israeli/yad-vashem/yvs16-09.html] square meters. The doors closed. Then I understood the reason for the 'Heckenholt' sign. Heckenholt was the driver of the Diesel, whose exhaust was to kill these poor unfortunates. SS Unterscharfuehrer Heckenholt tried to start the motor. It wouldn't start! Captain Wirth came up. You could see he was afriad because I was there to see the disaster. Yes, I saw everyting and waited. My stopwatch clocked it all: 50 minutes, 70 minutes, and the Diesel still would not start! The men were waiting in the gas chambers. You could hear them weeping 'as though in a synagogue,' said Professor Pfannenstiel, his eyes glued to the window in the wooden door. Captain Wirth, furious, struck with his whip the Ukrainians who helped Heckenholt. The Diesel started up after 2 hours and 49 minutes, by my stopwatch. Twenty-five minutes passed. You could see through the window that many were already dead, for an electric light illuminated the interior of the room. All were dead after thirty-two minutes! Jewish workers on the other side opened the wodden doors. They had been promised their lives in return for doing this horrible work, plus a small percentage of the money and valuables collected. The men were still standing, like columns of stone, with no room to fall or lean. Even in death you could tell the families, alll holding hands. It was difficult to separate them while emptying the rooms for the next batch. The bodies were tossed out, blue, wet with seat and urine, the legs smeared with excrement and menstual blood. Two dozen workers were busy checking mouths which they opened with iron hooks. 'Gold to the left, no gold to the right.' Others checked anus and genitals, looking for money, diamonds, gold, etc. Dentists knocked out gold teeth, bridges, and crowns, with ahmmers. Captain Wirth stood in the middle of them. He was in his element, and, showing me a big jam box filled with teeth, said, 'See the wieght of the gold! Just from yesterday and the day before! You can't imagine what we find every day, dollars, diamonds, gold! You'll see!' He took me over to a jeweler who was responsible for all the valuables. They also pointed out to me one of the heads of the big Berlin store Kaufhaus des Westens, and a little man whom they forced to play the violin, the chiefs of the Jewish workers' commandos. 'He is a captain of the Imperial Austrian Army, Chevalier of the German Iron Cross,' Wirth told me. Then the bodies were thrown into big ditches near the gas chambers, about 100 by 20 by 12 meters. After a few days the bodies welled and the whole mass rose up 2-3 years because of the gas in the bodies. When the swelling went down several days later, the bodies matted down again. They told me that later they poured Diesel oil over the bodies and burned them on railroad ties to make them disappear.<23> There is little to add to this description, which holds good for Treblinka and Sobibor as well as for the Belzec camp. The latter installations were constructed in almost the same way, and also used the exhaust carbon monoxide gases from Diesel motors as the death agent. At Maidanek, which was built later and lasted until the last days of the German occupation, the method of asphyxiation by prussic acid fumes (Cyclone B) was introduced after the example of Auschwitz, although, as we have pointed out, Maidanek was not an extermination camp proper. The inquiries of the Polish Commission for War Crimes have established that the total number of victims at Belzec was close to 600,000, 250,000 at Sobibor, more than 700,000 at Treblinka, and more than 300,000 at Chelmno.<24> More than 90 per cent were Polish Jews. However, there was not a European nationality unrepresented in the remaining 8 to 10 per cent. Of the 110,000 Jews deported from the Netherlands, at least 34,000 were exterminated at Sobibor.<25> The Belzec camp ceased functioning in December 1942 after nine months of activity. In the fall of 1943 Sobibor and Treblinka were also shut down, once the 'final solution' was practically completed in Poland, and their remains concealed as far as possible, the buildings dismantled or destroyed, and the terrain reforested. Only the first one, the Chelmno camp, functioned continuously until October 1944, being shut down only in January 1945. Every Jew sent to one of these four camps was doomed to immediate extermination. There were few exceptions to this rule. In a small number of cases quick 'selections' were made when the convoy arrived. Thus, in 1943, after the revolt of the Warsaw ghetto, when the last convoys were reaching Treblinka, the Germans took away men who seemed able-bodied, in order to send them to Maidanek.<26> Some of these have survived. At Sobibor, too, as a survivor reports, appeals were made on the arrival of certain convoys for 'volunteers for hard work.'<27> In any case, however, the number of these survivors was scarcely more than a few dozen. Of the 34,313 Dutch Jews deported to Sobibor from March to July 1943, 19 people (16 women and 3 men), who were included in these rapid selections, lived to return to the Netherlands. According to them, the selections involved only 35 to 40 persons in each convoy.<28> On the other hand, we know of only one survivor of Belzec.<29> Within the extermination camps there was a category of Jews not doomed to immediate death. These were members of the commandos assigned to clean out the installations: to pull the bodies from the gas chambers, search them, bury or burn them. The imagination finds it hard to conceive a matter in which physical and moral horror are so intimately blended; we shall have to come back again to this terrible subject. The members of these 'Sonderkommandos,' or special commandors, who were themselves exterminated at regular intervals and replaced with new teams, rebelled at various times. Thus, on August 2, 1943, an armed revolt broke out at Treblinka. Part of the plant was set afire and more than ten SS men and Ukrainian guards were killed. The camp was closed down a few weeks after this revolt. The last surviving members of the Jewish Sonderkommando of Chelmno, forty-seven of them, also rebelled on January 18, 1944, on the eve of their execution; two of them, Srebrnik and Surawski, succeeded in escaping and are at present its only survivors.<30>" (Poliakov, 192-197) <20> Trial of the major war criminals, interrogation of Konrad Morgen, session of August 8, 1946 <21> Interrogation of V. Brack during "The Doctors' Trial," session of May 14, 1947 <22> German Crimes in Poland, complete edition (in Polish), IV, 97. <23> Testimony of Kurt Gernstein. (PS 1553) <24> Les Crimes allemands en Pologne, French edition, Warsaw, 1948, p. 106-32 <25> Het doedenboek van Auschwitz, s'Gravenhage, Dutch Red Cross, 1947. <26> Testimony of Rothbalsam from the collection of Mme. A. Novitch. <27> Report by a Jewish deportee, returned to Slovakia, August 17, 1943. (LXX, 77) <28> Sobibor. s'Gravenhage, Dutch Red Cross, 1947. <29> The recollections of this sole survivor, Rudolf Reder, have been published under the title 'Belzec.' (Cracow, 1946) <30> Les Crimes allemands en Pologne, op. cit., p. 110, 120, 127 (5) On May 5, 1945, the eve of German surrender, two officers of the American Sixth Army Corps, Major Evans and Captain Haught, were approached in the small Black Forest town of Rothweil by a man who introduced himself as Kurt Gernstein, former head of the disinfection service of the Waffen SS. He assured them that he had important information and handed over a memorandum in French, which we reproduce in substantial part. To lend more weight to his statement he also handed over a set of bills for the purchase of 'Cyclone B' gas (the toxic gas used for exterminations) by the RSHA. These bills were in his name. He later was captured and as a war prisoner placed in a French prison, where he committed suicide in the summer of 1945. In his story, dated May 5, 1945, were certain details that could be known at that time only by a limited number of IVb officials. Some ten witnesses, most from the Lutherin Church (among others, the famous Pastor Niemoeller), have testified that they knew Gerstein for many years; they guaranteed his veracity and the authenticiity of his anti-Nazi sentiments. Finally, Gernstein swore that at the risk of his life, in Augst 1942, he had informed a member of the Swedish Embassy about what he had been able to learn; the truth of this statement has been confirmed by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which in due time had transmitted the information obtained in this way to London. Gerstein himself asserted that he had enlisted in the Waffen SS in 1941 only to trick his persecutors and to learn the truth about the 'euthanasia program' which then preoccupied the German Lutherin Church. This is how he had found himself caught in the machinery. According to one of his correspondents, Pastor Mochalski: 'By underestimating the SS system, he [Gernstein] succumbed to it, and offered his service for the extermination action, which he had wanted to fight. I consider it likely that he tried, or at least intended, to mitigate the sufferings of the internees, and to sabotage the delivery of prussic acid. I do not know whether he was able to do so.' Work Cited Poliakov, Leon. Harvest of Hate: The Nazi Program for the Destruction of the Jews of Europe. Syracuse University Press., 1956.
Site Map ·
What's New? ·
© The Nizkor Project, 1991-2012
Home · Site Map · What's New? · Search Nizkor