“…For a time there was quite a bit of rivalry among the S.S. leaders as
to which was the most efficient gas to speed the Jews to their death.
Speed was an important factor, especially at Auschwitz, where towards the
end the camp was setting new records by gassing 6,000 victims a day. One
of the camp’s commanders for a period was Rudolf Hoess, an ex-convict once
found guilty of murder, who deposed at Nurenberg on the superiority of the
gas he employed.
The ‘Final Solution’ of the Jewish question meant the complete
extermination of all Jews in Europe. I was ordered to establish
extermination facilities at Auschwitz in June 1941. At that time
there were already in the general government of Poland three other
exterminatin camps: Belzec, Treblinka, and Wolzek…
I visited Treblinka to find out how they carried out their
extermination. The camp commandant at Treblinka told me that he
had liquidated 80,000 in the course of half a year. He was
principally concerned with liquidating all the Jews from the
He used monoxide gas and I did not think that his methods were
very efficient. So when I set up the extermination building at
Auschwitz, I used Zyclon B, which was a crystallized prussic acid
which we dropped into the death chamber from a small opening.
It took from three to fifteen minutes to kill the people in the
death chamber, depending upon climatic conditions.
We knew when the people were dead because their screaming stopped.
We usually waited about a half hour before we opened the door and
removed the bodies. After the bodies were removed our special
commandos took off the rings and extracted the gold fom the teeth
of the corpses.
Another improvement we made over Treblinka was that we built our
gas chambers to accomodate 2,000 people at one time, whereas at
Treblinka their ten gas chambers only accomodated 200 people each.
Hoess then explained how the victims were ‘selected’ for the gas
chambers, since not all the incoming prisoners were done away with–at
least not at once, becuase some of them were needed to labor in the I.G.
Farben chemical works and Krupp’s factory until they became exhausted and
were ready for the “final solution.
We had two S.S. doctors on duty at Auschwitz to examine the
incoming transports of prisoners. These would be marched by
one of the doctors, who would make spot decisions as they walked
by. Those who were fit to work were sent into the camp. Others
were sent immediately to the extermination plants. Children of
tender years were invariably exterminated since by reason of their
youth they were unable to work.
Always Herr Hoess kept making improvements in the art of mass killing.
Still another improvement we made over Treblinka was that at
Treblinka the victims almost always knew that they were to be
exterminated, while at Auschwitz we endeavored to fool the victims
into thinking that they were to go through a delousing process.
Of course, frequently they realized our true intentions and we
sometimes had riots and difficulties. Very frequently women would
hide their children under the clothes but of course when we found
them we would send the children to be exterminated.
We were required to carry out these exterminations in secrecy,
but of course the foul burning of bodies permeated the entire area
and all the people in the communities knew that exterminations were
going on at Auschwitz” (Shirir, 1260-62)
Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: a
History of Nazi Germany. ISBN 0-449-21977-1;