Rumours of Mass Electrocutions

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From: [email protected] (Mark Van Alstine)
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Subject: Re: The next important development in the mass gassing claims
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Date: Thu, 15 Jul 1999 18:56:39 GMT
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Mark Van Alstine writes:

In article Jeff Roberts <[email protected]> wrote:


> The second was the description of extermination at
> Belzec — the victims were told to strip, as if for a shower, were led
> into a room, and then electrocuted via a metal plate on the floor.<-45

Reitlinger’s _The Final Solution_ (1953) dispenses with the rumor of mass murder by “electrocution” at Belzec:

The inefficiency of the gassing vans produced horrors enough, but it sees they were nothing compared with what happened when the next step was attempted, the application of the engine-exhaust gas to a group of permanent chambers, each holding hundreds of people at a time. The first of these, the Belsec gas installation, which was intended to be ready for the Lublin resettlement on March 16th, 1942 (_see pages 252-253_), broke down constantly. The deportees were left in the ‘transfer station’ for days on end, where they crouched in the open, naked and without food or water. Sometimes they were left in railway box-cars to suffocate on sidings. This story brought to London in February, 1943, cannot be lightly dismissed.[59] It can at least be compared with the evidence which a _German_ court was prepared to accept in August, 1950, that on one occasion the gas engine at Sobibor had broken down for three days on end, during which an entire transport had to wait under these conditins till the survivors could be gassed.[60]

Between May and June, 1942, Belsec was out of action for six weeks,[61] and in July it was only handling two transports a week.[62] In November- or soon after -it was out of action for good,[63] but the Jewish _Sonderkommando_ was occupied in effacing the mass graves till the following June.

Strange to say, all this happened within a few yards of the main line between Lwow and Lublin, where, in April 1943, a Jewish doctor later escaped to Switzerland, noticed the appalling stench of the exhumed bodies as he passed the spot by train.[64] Nevertheless the wildest legends sourrounded the place. Dr. Gue’rin, in a prisoner-of-war camp only twenty miles along the line, heard that the Jews were killed by an incredible electric current passed through water, and his story reached London in November, 1942.[65] It was only after the war that a real survivor appeared to describe the miserable diesel engine which had supplied the carbon monoxide. He was Rudolf Reder, the former director of a soap factory in Lwow, who owed his survival at the age of sixty to his ability to work the camp steam excavator.[66] Reder once saw the victims locked in the gas chamber for hours on end while efforts were made to start the diesel engine. The same scene was described by the German gas expert, Kurt Gerstein, who visited Belsec on August 20th, 1942, within a few days of Reder’s arrival (_see pages 153 and 265). I took two and three-quarter hours to start the engine and all the time the moaning could be heard in the four gas chambers, in each which there were 750 people.[67]


59 _Black Book of Polish Jewrey_, 1943, pages 135-38.

60 Sobibor case. (_Frankfurter Rundschau_, August 24th, 1950.)

61 IMT, V, 240. (Evidence, Paul Roser.)

62 Case IV. Interrogation, Karl Wolff, _Trial of War Criminals_, V, page 279, 1951.

63 Josef Tenenbaum, _In Search of a Lost People, New York, 1949, page 123. Evidence, Leon Weliczer.

64 Silberschein. _Die Judenausrottung in Polen, Geneva, 1944, V, page 22 (stencil).

65 _Rawa Ruska_, Marseilles, 1945.

66 Muszkat. _Polish Charges_, pages 229, _Dokumenty i Materialy_, I, page 221. _Belsec_ (in Polish), Cracow, 1945, by Rudolf Reder.

67 IMT, PS 1553. _Trials of War Criminals_, I, page 865. This is incomplete; full version in document books of Cases I and IV.

Source: Reitlinger, _The Final Solution_, p.140-141; notes 59-67 pp.553-554.

In the above one can see that Reitlinger, with careful analysis of the available sources, determined that Dr. Guerin’s 1942 account of the rumor that “Jews were killed by an incredible electric current passed through water” was one of the rumors that surround Belzec and was dispelled by Rudolf Reder’s (and Gerstein’s) eyewitness account.

> The elaboration of these materials in the New York Times on November
> 26, 1942, would include allegations by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise that the
> Germans were also turning the bodies of dead Jews into “fats and soaps
> and lubricants”

For information about morbid Nazi soap experiments see: [page not ready]

Furthermore, insight to the soap _rumors_ (and not the Danzig experiments) is offered by Hilberg:

The SS and Police (i.e. Himmler) had decided to make Lublin a German city and to make the Lublin district a German district. On October 1, 1942, the police carried out a _razzia_ in the northern section of the city of Lublin. All inhabitants of the section were called out and assembled in one place. All work certificates were checked, and all Poles – male or female – who could not prove that they were employed were carted away to a camp, while their children under fifteen were sent to an orphanage.

Immediately, rumors swept the city like wildfire. Many Poles stopped in the streets and said: “Weren’t we right that the resettlement across the Bug was going to come> It has come, earlier than we supposed. Punctually on October 1, 1942, in the morning it has come!” The Poles were convinced that this _Aktion_ was the same as the “resettlement” of the Jews. In Lublin the belief was strong that the Jewish “resettlers” had been killed and that the fat from their corpses had been used ijn the manufacture of soap. Now the pedestrians in Lublin were saying it was the turn of the Poles to be used – just like the Jews – for soap production.


There is more evidence that the news of the killing centers trickled into Slovakia, not only in government circles but to the public as well. In July 1942, a group of 700 ethnic German “asocial” were “resettled” from Slovakia. As the asocials were about to leave, a rumor began to circulate that the “resettlers” would be “boiled into soap” (zur Seife verkocht werden). That rumor referred to the popular belief that the Germans in the killing centers were turning human fat into soap cakes. (We may recall that in October 1942, an identical rumor was spread in the _Generalgouvernement district of Lublin. Probably the rumor originated there.


On July 29, 1942, the chief of the ethnic Germans in Slovakia, Karmasin, had written a letter to Himmler in which he described the “resettlement” of 700 “asocial” ethnic Germans. One of the difficulties, wrote Karmasin, was the spreading of the rumor (furthered by the clergy) that the “resettlers” would be boiled into soap” (das die Aussiedler “zur Seife verkocht werden”). In October, 1942, the Propaganda Division in the Lublin district reported the rumor circulating in the city that now it was the turn of the Poles to be used, like the Jews, for “soap production” (Die Polen kommen jetzt genau wie die Juden zur Seifenproduktion dran).

We are not concerned here with the question whether soap cakes of human fat were produced in the killng centers (the answer is propbably not) or whether such cakes were produced at all. To us the importance of the soap rumor lies in its effectiveness as a carrier of information about the mass killings. In 1942 that rumor had already been recorded in two different places, Lublin and Bratislava. Such spacing indicates that the rumor had a powerful impact and a wide distribution.

Source: Hilberg, _The Destruction of the Euopean Jews_, pp. 331,470,624.

> and that the Germans were now “injecting bubbles into
> their veins” because “prussic acid had been found to be too expensive.”
> <-46

The use of phenol injections to the heart to kill invalid prisoners at Auschwitz, for example, is well documented. The Nazis only bothered treating the sick only if it was likely that they would work again soon. In practice this meant only those with relatively minor injuries or illness that required less than a week or two in the infirmary were treated. Those who had succumbed to disease, starvation, privation etc. to the point where there was littl prospect of them working any time soon were put to death. Intially this meant phenol injections to the heart, but also later included sending the sick off to the gas chambers. Their death certificates (if any) were then falsified as to the cause of death. (Cf. Lifton, _The Nazi Doctors_; Gutman, _Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp_; Kogon _Nazi Mass Murder_.)

In regard to the falsification of death certificates (and “medicalized” killing) at Auschwitz, according to Lifton:

With the arrival of Eduard Wirths as chief SS physician in September 1942, and the increasing offical emphasis on the working capacity of prisoners, medical facilities were considerably expanded and improved. Prisoner doctors were permitted to do real medical work; responsible political prisoners (many of them German Communists) replaced often brutal criminal prisoners in important medically related positions; and SS doctors, for the most part, lent their support to these developments. Yet at precidely the same time, mass murder of Jews was also expanded to reach its most extreme proportions, and SS doctors were major coordinating figures. They ‘did everything the command wished”: that is, “cooperated closely…in the annihilation of the prisoners, and simultaneously did everything to make believe that they administered the proper medical treatment and in such a wayu they helped conceal various crimes.” Their falsifications included certification of the food rations as sufficient for life as well as the subsequent death certificates (required for prisoners admitted to the camp).

Source: Lifton, _The Nazi Doctors_, p.187.

Cf. Langbein, _menchen_ [7], pp.420-21.

A specific example of the falsification of the cause of death of a prisoner is related by Auschwitz survivor Dr. Albert Wenger, an American citizen, a lawyer and economics expert who was arrested in Vienna, on Febraury 24, 1943, and sent to Auschwitz on March 6, 1943. Dr. Wagner, suffering from the provations and brutalities that were common to Auschwitz, subsequently fell ill on March 23, 1943 and was sent to Block 28 (the prisoners infirmary). After recovering he worked in Block 28 as a male nurse and barrack “Schreiber” (scribe). There he witnessed the selection of prisoners, by SS Doctors, who were then sent to the gas chambers. He specifically recalls that the “protected deportee[s]” (Schutzheftling) Josepg Iratz and Herbert Kohn were sent to the gas chambers. (This was, according to Dr. Wagner, probably an error as Schutzheftling, according to the camp rules were not supposed to be selected for gassing.)

In Dr. Wagner’s offical declaration “made to the representatives of the liberating armies,” according to Lengyal, tells the following:

“In the Autumn, 1943, the German ‘protected inmate,’ Willi Kritsch, 28 years old, an architect, was beaten with a stick by Unterscharfu”hrer Nidowitzky in one of his fits of sadism until Kritsch fell to the ground. Since Kritsch was still alive, Nidowitzky ordered that he be taken to the operating room where he (nidowitzky) injected him with phenol. The cause of death was stated as ‘heart failure!’

Source: Lengyal, _Five Chimneys_, p.183.

Unfortunately, much of the medical records from the prisoner infirmaries at Auschwitz, according to Lengyel, were confiscated by the SS and burned when the camp was being abandoned by the Nazis (cf. Lengyal, _Five Chimneys_, p.209). However, the Auschwitz _morgue register_ confirms that prisoners were routinely murdered with phenol injections in the prisoner infirmaries. According to Czech:

October 16 [1941]


In the prisoner’s infirmary 21 prisoners are killed with phenol injections. In the Morgue Register, the entry “27w” appears nect to these prisoners’ numbers.

Source: Czech, _Auschwitz Chronicle_, p.96.

The refernece for this entry is cited: “APMO, D-RO/90K, 1/B.**.” The footnote to this reference reads:

**This is a list of prisoners who died or were killed by shooting and injections. The list was made in Auschwitz and, with the help of the resistance movement, was sent illicitly to Krakow. It is a copy of the Morgue Register. The number of 21 prisoners who were brought in one after another are put together in brackets and the note “injection” is added. Next to those numbers is the code “27w.” Thus we can assume that previous entries marked with the same code concern prisoners who were also killed with phenol injections.

Source: Czech, _Auschwitz Chronicle_, p.96fn.

In regard to the Morgue Register, according to Czech:

The Morgue Register covers the period October 7, 1941 to August 31, 1943.
The entries are made by the individual body bearers. The following data are noted daily: the current number, the prisoner number, and the place of admission, i.e., usually the number of the residential or infirmary block, Block 11, or the abbreviation for the Penal Comapny (SK-Strafkompanie), the gravel pit (KG-Kiesgrube), the Political Department (PA-Politische Abteilung) or the Russian Camp (RL-Russisches Lager). The last refers to prisoners who were put in the camp of the Russian POWs and died there.
Many entries are mde in a code. The entry “27w” probably means that the prisoner was killed by phenol injection in the lavatory of Block 28 or in the waiting room of the morgue of Block 28 where the corpse bearers gathered and were also given phenol injections. The entry “27w” is under the current number entry during the period October 7, 1941 to January 10, 1942; later “28w” is entered.

Source: Czech, _Auschwitz Chronicle_, p.94fn.


> In the midst of now typical gas chamber claims in May and June, and
> perhaps as a response to the Katyn accusation, the Soviets conducted a
> trial in Krasnodar in July of 1943, featuring German POW’s who confessed
> to the gassing of people by use of “gas vans” or as the Russians called

> them, “Dushegubki” or “murder vans”.<-62

>From Eichmann’s interrogation, regarding his visit to Chelmno in the
autumn of 1941:

EICHMANN: After the war broke out between Germany and Russia. That would make it the autumn of 1941. Then I was sent to Kulm [Chelmno] in Warthgau. I recieved orders from M=FCller to go to Litzmannstadt and report back to him on what was going on there. He didn’t put it the same way as…as Heydrich…not as crassly. “An action against the Jews is under way there, Eichmann. Go take a look. And then report to me.” I went to Gestapo headquarters in Litzmannstadt-now it’s Lodz again-and there I was told. It was a special team, put in by the Reichsfu”hrer [Himmler]. And they told me exactly where this Kulm is situated. I saw the following: a room, perhaps if I remember right, about five times as big as this one here. There were Jews in it. They had to undress, and then a sealed truck drove up. The doors were opened, it drove up to a kind of ramp. The naked Jews had to get in,. Then the doors were closed and the truck drove off.

LESS: How many people did this truck hold?

EICHMANN: I don’t know exactly. The whole time it was there, I didn’t look inside. I couldn’t. Couldn’t! What I saw and heard was enough. The screaming and…I was much too shaken and so on. I told M=FCller that in my report. He didn’t get much out of it. I drove after the truck…and there I saw the most horrible sight I had seen in all my life. I drove up to a fairly long trench. The doors were opened and corpses were thrown out. The limbs were as supple as if they’d been alive. Just thrown in. I can still see a civilain with pliers pulling out teeth. And then I beat it. I got into my car and drove off. I didn’t say another word to my driver. I’d had enough. I was through. The only other thing I remember is that a doctor in a white smock wanted me to look through a peephole and watch the people inside the truck. I refused. I couldn’t, couldn’t say another word, I had to get out of there. In Berlin I reported to Gruppenf=FChrer M=FCller. I told him the same as I’ve told you now. Terrible, an inferno. I can’t. It’s… I can’t do it…I told him.

LESS: What did M=FCller say?

EICHMANN: M=FCller never said anything. Never! Not about these things and not about other things. He was always very terse and unemotional, he only said what was strictly necessary. He’d say yes or he’d say no. And when he didn’t say yes or no, he usually said, “EIchmann, my friend…” That wasn’t yes and it wasn’t no. He was a man of few words.

LESS: Did you report this in writing?

EICHMANN: No, I couldn’t do that. I was expressly forbidden to; by Heydrich, I believe. M=FCller wanted especially to know how long it takes; I wasn’t able to tell him that, I couldn’t hear. I should have gone out there a second time, but naturally I didn’t volunteer, and nothing was said to me.

Source: von Lang, _Eichmann Interrogated_, pp.74-78.

See: [page not ready] [page not ready] [page not ready] [page not ready]

> It is worth mentioning here
> that no “gassing van” has ever been located.<-63

See: [page not ready]


> In late November, 1943, the Soviets, upon the liberation of Kiev,
> would allege that several tens of thousands had been shot at Babi Yar, a
> ravine outside of the city.<-65

According to the USHMM:

On September 29-30, 1941 more than 33,000 Jewish residents of Kiev were marched to this site, where they were systematically gunned down over the edge of the ravine by members of Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppen C. Babi Yar also served as the execution site for thousands of Gypsies and Soviet POWs in the period between 1941 and 1943. In the summer of 1943, in an attempt to erase evidence of the mass slaughter, units of Sonderkommando 1005 undertook the exhumation and cremation of those killed at Babi Yar. They began their work on August 18 and finished six weeks later on September 19.

Photos and their captions from the USHMM archives:

“Jews on their way out of the city of Kiev to the Babi Yar ravine pass corpses lying on the street. This is possibly an image showing the assembly of Jews in Kiev prior to their execution at the Babi Yar ravine.” (Sep 29, 1941)

See: [broken link]

“Unidentified people sit among piles of clothing at the bottom of a ravine presumed to be Babi Yar. Above them, German police officers patrol the ravine.” (Sep 29, 1941 – Sep 30, 1941.)

See: [broken link]

“German police look through the clothing of people killed during a shooting action, presumably at Babi Yar.” (Sep 29, 1941 – Sep 30, 1941.)

See: [broken link]

“Soviet POWs at forced labor exhuming bodies in what is presumably the ravine at Babi Yar.” (Aug 19, 1943)

See: [broken link]

“A member of an Einsatzgruppe speaks with two women at the top of what is presumably the ravine at Babi Yar. Soviet POWs in the ravine are busy exhuming the bodies of the thousands of Jews, Gypsies, and Soviet POWs killed there in the previous two years. (Aug 19, 1943)

“View of the ravine at Babi Yar.” (Circa 1944.)

See: [broken link] [broken link] [broken link]

See also: [page not ready] [page not ready]

> The absence of forensic evidence was
> explained by claiming the Germans had somehow managed to dig up all of
> the remains a few weeks before retreating from the Red Army and burned
> all of the bodies without leaving a trace.<-66

In July 1943, by which time the Red Army was on the advance, Paul Blobel came back to Kiev. He was now on a new assingment, in coordination with SS-Gruppenf=FChrer Dr. Max Thomas, the officer commanding the SD and Sipoin the Ukraine: that of erasing all evidence of the mass carnage that the Nazis had perpetrated. For this purpose, Blobel formed two special groups, identified by the code number 1005. Unit 1005-A was made up of eight to ten SD men and thirty German policemen, and was under the command of an SS-Obersturmbannf=FChrer named Baumann. In mid-August the unit embarked on its task of exhuming the corpses in Babi Yar and cremating them. The ghastly job itself was carried out by inmates of a nearby concentration camp (Syretsk), from which the Germans brought 327 men, of whom 100 were Jews. The prisoners were housed in a bunker carved out from the ravine wall; it had an iron gate that was locked during the night and was watched by a guard with a machine gun. They had chains bolted to their legs, and those who fell ill or lagged behind were shot on the spot. The mass graves were opened by bulldozers, and it was the prisoners’ job to drag the corpses to cremation pyres, which consisted of wooden logs doused in gasoline on a base of railroad ties. The bones that did not respond to
incineration were crushed in tombstones from the Jewish cemetary. The ashes were sifted to retrieve any gold or silver they might have contained. The cremation of the corpses began on August 18 and went on for six weeks, ending on September 19, 1943. The Nazis did their job thoroughly, and when they were through no trace was left of the mass

Source: Gutman, _Encyclopedia of the Holocaust_, pp.134-135.

> What is at issue here is not the reality of shooting claims, per se, for there
> certainly is much evidence to corroborate the notion that the Germans and
> their East European auxiliaries massacred many people, including Jews,

“By trhe spring of 1943, the Einsatzgruppen had killed more than a million Jews and tens of thousands of Soviet political commissars, partisans, ans Roma.”

–USHMM, _Historical Atlas of the Holocaust_, p.51.

> in the course of carrying out the Commissar Order to kill communists and
> communist sympathizers,

The Kommissarbefehl targeted the Soviet political/ideological leadership, not the general populace. To suggest otherwise is a fascile lie.

According to Gutman:

KOMMISSARBEFEHL, (Commissar Oder), order issued by the German army to kill the political commissars in the Red Army who fell into German hands. The guidelines that Hitler gave the Wehrmacht for the attack on the Soviet Union (Operation “Barbarossa”) ordered it to plan the attack not only from its military aspects but from the ideological aspects as well. Thus, the attack was to include the physical destruction of the bearers of the Communist idea and the political activists of the Soviet state establishment.

On June 6, 1941, two weeks prior to the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Armed Forces High Command; OKW) issued the _Kommissarbefehl_.

It must be expected that the treatment of our prisoners by the political commissars of all types, who are the true pillars of resistance, will be cruel, inhuman, and dictated by hate…. Therefore, if captured during combat or while offering resistance they must on principle be shot immediately. This applies to commissars of every type and position, even if they are only suspected of resistance, sabotage, or instigation thereto.

According tot he Directive for the COnduct of Troops in Russia,…in their capacity as officals attached to enemy troops, political commissars…will not be recognized as soldiers; the protection granted to prisoners of war…will not apply to them. After having been segregated they are to be liquidated….

Commissars seized in the rear areas of the army group…are to be handed over tothe Einsatzgruppen or Einsatzkommandos of the Sicherheitspolizei [Security Police].

The order was signed by Gen. Walter Warlimont and its issue was authorized by Gen. Wilhelm Keitel, the OKW chief of staff. It was based on the Order on Jurisdiction in the Operation “Barbarossa” Area of May 13, 1941, which gave the army and the SS wide powers and facilitated the establishment of a regime of terror and tyranny in the Soviet territories occupied by the Germans.

The _Kommissarbefehl_ and the order of May 13 were both in violation of international conventions on the treatment and rights of prisoners of war and civilians in occupied territories. Together with other orders of the same type, it made the Wehrmacht and accomplice in the Nazi war crimes committed in the Soviet Union. A few days after the _Kommissarbefehl_ was issued, Field Marshal Walther von Brauchlitsch, chief of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (Armed Forces High Command), issued guidelines giving every officer the authority to decide who had been made prisoners of war.
Commissars were executed as soom as they were identified as such, whether on the front, when they were taken prisoner, or in prisoner of war camps in the rear. In the summer of 1941 Keitel ordered that all copies of the _Kommissarbefehl_ that had been distributed to the various army headquarters be destroyed, in an effort to remove evidence implicating the army in war crimes.

Source: Gutman, _Encyclopedia of the Holocaust_, p.814.


> …as well as in the context of anti-partisan warfare.<-67

In light of the Mr. Robert’s claim that the Kommissarbefehl instructed German forces to carry out anti-partisan warfare, the followinf, for example, should be noted:

28.8.41 Kedainiai 710 Jews, 767 Jewesses, 599 Jewish children 2,076

or these items:

29.8.41 Rumsiskis and 20 Jews, 567 Jewesses, 197 Ziezmariai Jewish children 784
29.8.41 Utena and 582 Jews, 1,731 Jewesses, 1,469 Moletai Jewish children 3,782
1.9.41 Mariampole 1,763 Jews, 1,812 Jewesses, 1,404 Jewish children, 109 mentally sick,
1 German subject (f.), married to a Jew, 1 Russian (f.) 5090

–from the detailed report by SS-Standartenfuehrer J=E4ger about mass killings in Nazi occupied USSR, July-November 1941

Over the period of four days, in six towns in the Ukraine, the Nazis killed 3,070 children. According to Mr. Roberts, evidently these 3,070 children must have been dangerous “partisans.” To suggest that the thousands of children rounded up in the Einsatzgruppen’s mobile killing operations were partisans according to the Kommissarbefehl is nothing more
than a malicious and transparent lie.

But then malicious and transparent lies are Mr. Robert’s stock-in-trade.

See: [page not ready]



“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”