August * 
In Ho”ss’s absence, Camp Commander SS Captain Karl Fritzsch uses the gas
Zyklon B to Kill Russian POW’s.**
* This most likely happens at the end of August because Ho”ss is present
at the next killing of Russian POW’s and the Polish prisoners in the
cellar of Block 11.
** Following Hitler’s order of March 30, 1941 and the guidlines worked out
by High Command of the Aemed Forces for the treatment of political
commissars of June 6, 1941 (NO-1076), and on the basis of the operational
order No. 8 issued by the Head of the RSHA Heydrich on July 17, 1941,
small groups of political functionaries are sent to Auschwitz by th
Gestapo in August. They are selected in the POW camp to be liquidated. The
time of the admission and the size of this group cannot be ascertained
because of the lack of documents. In his autobiography, Rudolf Ho”ss
writes: “In accordance with a secret order issued by Hitler, these Russian
_politruks_ and political commissars were searched out in all the
prisoner-of-war camps by special Gestapo commandos. When identified, they
were transferred to the nearest concentration camp for liquidation… The
political officials of the Red Army thus identified were brought to
Auschwitz for liquidation. The first, smaller trnasports were shot by
execution commandos. While I was away on duty, my deputy, Fritzsch, the
Protective Custody Commander, first tried gas for these killings. It was a
preparation of prussic acid, called Zyclon B, which was used in the camp
as an insecticide and of which there was a stock on hand. On my return,
Fritzsch reported this to me, and the gas was used again for the next
In the notes titled by Ho”ss “The Solution to the Jewish Question in
Auschwitz Concentration Camp,” he writes the following: “In the autimn of
1941 a secret order was issued insrtructing the Gestapo to weed out the
Russian _politruks_, commissars, and certain political officals from the
prisoner-of-war camps, and to transfer them to th nearest concentration
camps for liquidation. Small transports of these prisoners were
continually arriving in Auschwitz and they were shot in the gravel pit
near the Tobacco Monopoly buildings or in the courtyard of Block 11. When
I was absent on duty, ny deputy, Captian Fritzsch, on his own initiative
used gas for killing those Russian prisoners of war. He crammed the
underground detention cells with Russians and, protected by a gas mask,
discharged Zyklon B gas into the cells, killing the victims instantly”
(Ho”ss, _Commandant in Auschwitz_, pp. 125ff.,159). Ho”ss mentions neither
the number of the murdered Russian prisoners of war nor the place were
Zyclon B is used.
September 3 * 
After the success of the experiment of killing the small group of Russian
prisoners of war with gas, ordered by Karl Fritzsch a few days earlier,
the camp administration decides to repeat the experiment in the cellar of
Block 11. This no doubt has to do with the news that the Gestapo is
planning to send a large transport of officers, People’s Commissars, and
Russian prisoners of war for liquidation. In this connection, Camp Doctor
SS Captian Dr. Seigfreid Schwela orders a selection in the prisoners’
infirmary, in which about 250 inmates are selected. The attendants are
instructed to take the selected prisoners to the bunker of Block 11 and to
bring a few of the there on stretchers. In the bunker they are crammed
together in a few cells. The cellar windows are blocked up with earth.
Then about 600 Russian POWšs, officers, and peoplešs commissars are driven
into the cellar. They have been chosen in the campšs prisoner-of-war
section by special Gestapo commandos. As soon as they are pushed into the
cellar and the SS men have thrown in the Zyklon B gas, the doors are
locked and sealed.** This operation takes place after evening roll call,
after the announcement of a so-called camp curfew, during which prisoners
are forbidden to leave the blocks and move around in the camps.
* The date comes from the analysis of the statements of former prisoners
and of the Bunker Register, in which between August 31 and September 5 no
entries occur regarding admission of prisoners onto the bunker.
** In his autobiography Rudolph Hoss writes: łthe gassing was carried out
in the detention cells of Block 11. Protected by a gas mask, I watched the
killing myself. In the crowded cells death came instantaneously the moment
the Zyklon B was thrown in . A short, almost smothered cry, and it was all
_Commandant in Auschwitz_, p. 126).
September 4 
In the morning Roll Call Leader Gerhard Palitzsch, protected by a gas
mask, opens the doors and discovers that one of the POWšs is still alive.
More Zyklon B is poured and the doors are closed once more…. In the
afternoon all the doors of the bunker in Block 11 are opened and unsealed
after it is ascertained that the second dose of Zyklon B has killed the
…In the afternoon all the doors of the bunker in Block 11 are opened and
unsealed after it is ascertained that the second dose of Zyklon B has
killed the Russian POW’s and the Polish prisoners. There is a wait until
the gas has evaporated. After the evening roll call, another camp curfew
In the evening Roll Call Leader Palitzsch summons 20 prisoners from the
Penal Company in Block 5a as well as all the hospital orderlies and two
prisoners, Eugeniusz Obojski and Teofil Bansiuk, who are put to work as
corpse bearers. They are given two carts to transport the bodies to the
morgue and the crematorium. All are taken to the courtyard of Block 11.
They are told in advance that they have been put on a special work dtail
and are not to tell anyone what they see, under the penalty of death. At
the same time they are promised that after performing this work they will
recieve larger portions of food.
In the courtyard of Block 11, SS officers Fritzsch, Maier, and Palitzsch,
the Camp Doctor Schwela, and the SS men who occupy positions as Block
Laders are already there. Prisoners Obojski and Bansiuk receive gas masks
and go with Palitzsch and the SS men, who also wear gas masks, to the
cellar of Block 11. They return from the cellar without gas masks to show
that the gas has evaporated. The prisoners are divided into four groups.
One group, with gas masks, hauls the bodies of the murdered men out of the
cellar to the ground floor; the second group strips the bodies; the third
group carries the bodies to the courtyard of Block 11, where they are
loaded onto the trucks by the fourth group. The Russian prisoners of war
are dressed in uniforms; in the pockets are documents, family photos,
money , various trinkets, and cigarettes. In the courtyard, under the
supervision of the SS men, seven dentists extract gold crowns and teeth
from the corpses. The prisoners pull the cart loaded with the bodies of
the prisoners of war and the Polish prisoners from the courtyard of Block
11 to the crematorium, accompanied by Obojski and Bansiuk and under
supervision of the SS men. Among the murdered are also the bodies of the
10 inmates who were locked in the bunker and condemned to death by
Fritzsch on September 1 in retyaliation for the escape of Jan Nowaczek.
The bodies of the prisoners selected in the hospital are in underwear. The
hauling, stripping, searching, and transporting of the bodies lasts until
dawn and is not finished.
September 5 
…After evening roll csll, a cmp curfew is ordered. The same prisoners
who were detailed the night before march into the courtyard of block 11 to
complete the transporting of the bodies to the crematorium. There, the
corpsesare laid in a big, long hall* which is already half full. The
crematorium unit cannot keep up with the cremation of corpses. It is a few
days before all the bodies are incinerated. **
* The morgue is later changed into a gas chamber. Prisoners are also shot there.
** The news of the deaths of about 600 Russian POW’s and some 250 Polish
prisoners by gas leaks out. On November 17, 1941, in _Informator
biez’acy_, the underground bulletin of the high command of the Federation
for Armed Struggle, a notice about it appears. “The night of September 5
to September 6” is given as the date, i.e. the day on which the transport
of the bodies to the crematorium is completed (CA KC PZPR, 2020/III-7,
Documents of the Delegation of the Polish Government in Exile, p.12).
“Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes
not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties–but
right through every human heart–and all human hearts.”
— Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “The Gulag Archipelago”
Message-Id: <[email protected]>
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 1996 22:55:05 -0700
From: [email protected] (Mark Van Alstine)
Subject: Höss’s enterprising subordinate Hauptsturmführer Fritsch
(A copy of this message has also been posted to the following newsgroups:
Source: “Auschwitz Chronicle, 1939-1945 / Danuta Czech. – 1st American ed.
(ISBN 0-8050-0938-8); pp. 84-87.
Reference to August: Ibid.
Reference to September 3: APMO, Hoss Trial, vol. 2, p.97; vol. 4, pp.21,
34, 99, 128; vol. 54, p.207; Vol. 78, p. 1, Statements of Former
Reference to September 4: APMO, Hoss Trial, vol. 2, pp.21, 97; vol. 4,
p.21; vol. 54, pp.208ff; vol 55, pp.101ff; Statements of Former Prisoners;
Statements of Former Prisoners Jan Krokowski and Michal Kula; Kieler,
_Anus Mundi_, pp.92-94
Reference to September 5: Kieler, _Anus Mundi_, pp.95-98.