Bomb Shelters in Birkenau: A Reappraisal
A few years ago the argument began to emerge that the various gastight fixtures of the Birkenau crematoria were best explained in terms of protection against chemical warfare. The first exploration in this area was by Arthur R. Butz of Northwestern University, whose "Vergasungskeller" article of July 1996 argued that the basement spaces of Crematoria II and III at Birkenau were equipped in a manner consistent with an anti-chemical warfare "gas shelter." In the spring of 1997, our own research led to the article "Technique and Operation of German Anti-Gas Shelters in World War Two" (hereinafter, Technique), which approached the issue of chemical warfare defense from an air raid protection point of view, supporting the argument with many references to contemporary German civil air defense literature.
Technique expanded the argument for gas protection considerably, but also created a link between chemical warfare protection and air raid protection because it showed that chemical warfare protection was intrinsic to German bomb shelter design: that is, all bomb shelters were meant to provide gas protection, and gas shelters were essentially a subset of bomb shelters.
It should be said that the argument in Technique was not meant to be comprehensive but merely to alert interested students to the possibilities of German civil air defense literature in explaining the origin and purpose of the gastight fixtures of the Birkenau crematoria. Hence, the article consisted of a simple comparison of only two data sets: the German civil air defense literature on the one hand, and the so-called Criminal Traces of J. C. Pressac on the other.
Of course, the idea that the crematoria of Birkenau would be equipped to protect against bombs or poison gas is unusual, but it was a conclusion that seemed to us inevitable, given the essential identity of all of the gastight fixtures noted by Pressac and ordinary civil air defense paraphernalia found in the German literature. For this reason, we thought it important to put the matter before the public. At the same time, however, the idea was unusual enough that it seemed to call for further investigation, and hence a sister article, "Defending Against the Allied Bombing Campaign" (Defending) followed in July of 1997.
The primary aim of Defending was simply to investigate whether the gastight fixtures common in the German civil air defense literature were also common in Germany during the war. The secondary aim of Defending was to see if there was any other evidence of bomb shelters or gas shelters in the concentration camps, and particularly in Auschwitz. The main limitation of Defending was that at the time we had no documents proving the existence of gastight bomb shelters in either the concentration camps, or at Auschwitz, and in the meantime we were constantly being assured from all sides that there had never been any.
Technique and Defending, along with Professor Butz' prior article, became the basis for what was essentially a new model for explaining the gastight fixtures at Auschwitz. For many years, the existence of gastight fixtures at Auschwitz had been assumed as references to homicidal gas chambers, while since the late 1970's the standard antithesis was that these gastight references were all references to delousing or disinfection gas chambers. We may call these the "gas chamber thesis" and the "disinfection thesis" respectively. (See NOTE) The new emphasis on protection against poison gas in an air raid context, however, provided a third model, what we have called the "bomb shelter thesis."
We would define the bomb shelter thesis in this way: there are a number of objects, fixtures, and names applied to spaces in the Birkenau crematoria and other buildings at Auschwitz, and most of these terms, although not all, include reference to gastightness. The bomb shelter thesis simply states that some, or many, or most, or all, of these are best explained in a civil air defense context, which includes gas protection. Like any thesis, the bomb shelter thesis has a maximum and a minimum. It may be that the thesis explains some of these gastight fixtures, but not others. It may be that it explains all of them, in which case it would seem to follow that the gastight fixtures of the Birkenau crematoria were applied to those buildings with the intent of following civil air defense or gas protection guidelines, and not for purposes of mass gassing or disinfection. The only way to test the thesis would be for the various experts in this field to apply the civil air defense model to the existing evidence, and for that reason our writings on the subject have sometimes challenged these experts.
In the event, however the experts have been disinclined to pursue the thesis at all. In early 1998, we received copies of three documents from the Auschwitz Central Construction Office, which are today archived in Moscow, and these proved that the camp was involved in air raid protection measures a full year earlier than had previously been believed (Auschwitz Central Construction Office = Zentralbauleitung der Waffen-SS und Polizei Auschwitz = ZBL). These documents, along with a brief letter which outlined our proposed interpretation of them, with, it must be admitted, a certain challenging and unguarded tone, were published on the Internet website of the British historian David Irving (see Documents). Shortly before, Technique was published by the German scientist Germar Rudolf in his revisionist journal, Viertelsjahrhefte für freie Geschichtsforschung. A year later, in early 1999, Herr Rudolf's translation of Technique was subjected to a critique by the Italian revisionist Carlo Mattogno, himself an apostle of the disinfection thesis. This called forth a rather brief rebuttal from us, (see Comments), which a few months later led to a further critique by Mattogno. Finally, in early 2000, the bomb shelter thesis was discussed in some detail by Professor Robert Jan van Pelt in his expert report for the David Irving v. Deborah Lipstadt/Penguin libel trial. This came shortly after the Journal of Historical Review had published another adaptation of Technique, this time in Mark Weber's version.
In the meantime, during the Irving v. Lipstadt trial, David Irving adopted a limited acceptance of the bomb shelter thesis with regard to the gastight fixtures of Crematoria II and III, and the thesis was the subject of testimony by Irving and van Pelt, was referred to in the closing speeches of both Irving and Richard Rampton QC, and was discussed in the judgment of Justice Charles Gray. It may be fairly said that the thesis is beginning to be discussed more widely, and therefore is deserving of review.
The purpose of the present study is to review the evidence for bomb shelters and the application of civil air defense procedures in the Auschwitz-Birkenau complex, based primarily on documents from the Auschwitz Central Construction Office. We do not mean to rewrite or rehash the content of either Technique or Defending, but simply to supplement these articles with other information that has come to our attention over the past three years. In the course of doing so, we will have an opportunity to reappraise our interpretation of the Criminal Traces and answer the critical objections of Mattogno and van Pelt.
In Part One we will describe the background to the argument, which essentially turns on the presentation of documentary evidence that the Birkenau crematoria were adapted for the purposes of mass murder with poison gas. Here we will briefly cover the documentary situation from the time of the Nuremberg trials through the writing of our own articles in 1997.
In Part Two, preceded by a brief survey of documents for occupied Poland, we will present several documents, many of them from the Central Construction Office of Auschwitz, which will show that Auschwitz was in receipt of civil air defense directives from the beginning of the camp's existence. We will also see that certain evidence for the implementation of civil air defense procedures comes from the summer of 1943.
In Part Three, we will review the Criminal Traces of J. C. Pressac, and make some expansions and some concessions as to the proper interpretation of some of these documentary references. In addition, we will offer a few new documents.
In Part Four, we will array a few dozen documents, nearly all of them from the archives of the Central Construction Office, and nearly all of them unearthed by revisionist researchers in the past few years. We will attempt to arrange these documents into a coherent narrative that supports the disinfection thesis, and after, to point up the deficiencies of the gas chamber thesis in explaining these documents.
In Part Five, we will review the criticisms of Mattogno and van Pelt and provide our responses to them.
Our overall conclusion is that the crematoria in Birkenau ended up fulfilling three functions. First, they were built to implement the special measures dictated by General Kammler of the SS Construction Office in Berlin with respect to improving the hygienic conditions in the camp by providing crematoria that would allow for the rapid disposal of the dead. Second, the showers, washing facilities, and other facilities with which the crematoria were equipped were to be used temporarily for the showering of the prisoners, and the disinfection of their garments, prior to the completion of the Central Sauna at the end of 1943 and the main Reception Center in the main camp in 1944. Finally, like all new constructions and particularly those equipped with showers or other washing facilities, the crematoria were also equipped with various gastight equipment in order to fulfill civil air defense requirements, including those for chemical warfare decontamination, in accordance with a further set of directives from General Kammler. The evidence suggests that the early adherence to civil air defense guidelines was something of a formality, but that by early 1944 the matter of adequate civil air protection in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp became a pressing concern, and continued on until the liberation of the camp in early 1945.
In short, we will see that the documentary and material evidence, at all levels, indicates concern over civil air defense and gas protection in the Auschwitz camp that increases probably from the fall of 1942 until the end of the camp's operation. This involved, by early 1944, the proliferation of gastight fixtures, and other fixtures, identical to the gastight fixtures with which the Birkenau crematoria were equipped the previous spring. The deficiencies of the alternative explanations will be noted, and the bomb shelter thesis will be argued as the most plausible explanation for the gastight fixtures of the crematoria.
Part One: Background of the Criminal Traces
1.1. The Nuremberg Trials and Other Postwar Trials
At the end of World War Two it was widely assumed that the Nazis running the concentration camps had gassed millions of prisoners in them. At the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, which ran from late 1945 until early fall 1946, it was stated in the judgment that millions of people had been gassed and cremated at the Auschwitz camp, which actually comprised a base camp of that name, and numerous satellite camps, the largest of which was at Birkenau, about two miles away. The evidence upon which the International Military Tribunal's judges made their judgment about gassings at Auschwitz consisted of some testimony and a special report prepared by the Soviet Union.
The decision of the International Military Tribunal to endorse the claim of gassing at Auschwitz had far-reaching repercussions, because it was stipulated at the time that the judgments arrived at by that tribunal would be binding for all subsequent legal proceedings. Hence, all later trials in Germany on the subject of Auschwitz, whether conducted by the occupying powers or by the Germans themselves, have never contested the gassings since their occurrence was not something that could be disputed. This is something the student should always keep in mind.
In March, 1947, the former commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Höß, was tried before the Polish People's Tribunal in Warsaw. At this trial protocol lists of evidence were presented, derived from earlier hearings in Krakow (hereinafter Krakow Protocols) in late 1946, and these became part of the court record. Also during 1947 the United States conducted a trial of the various heads of the concentration camp system, known as Case #4 of the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, the main defendant being Oswald Pohl, who was head of the WVHA, the division of the SS involved in the exploitation of forced labor in the camps (WVHA = Wirtschafts-Verwaltunghauptamt = SS Economic Administration Main Office). At that trial two documents were introduced as evidence of gas chambers at Auschwitz and they were, for more than 30 years, the only documentary evidence available in the West.
The two documents consisted of a letter from the Auschwitz Central Construction Office, which uses the word "Vergasungskeller", and another, also from the Construction Office, which used the term "gasdichte Türme." Both terms were translated as "gas chambers" by the American prosecution, but these are incorrect translations. We will discuss both of these documents later in detail, but the point is that the broad acceptance of the gassing claim was achieved based on testimonies, to which these two documents provided only some supplementary detail. This is important, because the bomb shelter thesis is about the documents, not the testimony, and that means that the issue of a civil air defense explanation for documents is not synonymous with the issue of gassing as such.
In the early 1970's, a handful of Germans who had been to Auschwitz during the war began to make claims that they had never heard of any gassings there. This stimulated a French professor of literature, Robert Faurisson, to go directly to the camp sites in communist Poland. Faurisson conducted critical examinations of the Auschwitz camp, and its architectural drawings, and many other camps, and came to the conclusion that no one was gassed at any of them, and that the only gassings that occurred in German camps were the delousing and disinfection gassings that were repeatedly done to barracks and clothing in order to combat disease.
When Faurisson began to publish the results of his studies in the late 1970's, a great controversy erupted in France. There were several legal proceedings against Faurisson. His accusers had only the two documents we have discussed at their disposal to contradict him. This is the background to the Criminal Traces of J. C. Pressac.
1.2. The Criminal Traces
Jean Claude Pressac is a pharmacist by trade but has studied the Auschwitz camp since the 1950's. He made several trips to Auschwitz, and studied the ruins and the documents in the Auschwitz State Museum. By 1986 he had compiled a massive amount of documents, including architectural drawings, most of these culled from the Auschwitz archives, and these formed the backbone for his book, "Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers" which appeared in 1989. The book was published in a limited edition of only 1,000 copies by the Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, a French organization of anti-Nazis. It has a certain legendary quality not only because of its scarcity, but because of the amount of the documentation contained within it. Nevertheless, as any reader can see, it does not prove the existence of homicidal gas chambers at Auschwitz.
Pressac framed his argument in terms of a response to Faurisson. Faurisson had compared the alleged gas chambers with known gas chambers in the United States, and had found the sites at Auschwitz and elsewhere to be totally lacking in the safeguards and design found in the American gas chambers. Faurisson also interpreted every site with a gastight door as a delousing or "disinfestation" gas chamber for killing lice. Hence, Pressac, in rejoinder, devoted quite a bit of space to the discussion of delousing and disinfection facilities at Auschwitz. Pressac generally sought to make two points: first, that the Germans made all kinds of ad hoc arrangements for the use of the poison cyanide gas contained in the pesticide trade-named Zyklon B, so that they would be expected to take no special precautions in using Zyklon B for homicidal purposes. Second, Pressac wished to show that because of such casual standards any space could be a gas chamber, and that the morgues of the Birkenau crematoria were not specially designed for gassing, but were merely convenient to that purpose.
There was a certain necessity to Pressac's argument, because when he turned to the Birkenau crematoria he had to agree that the structural differences between these crematoria and any other crematoria were minor. At the same time, Pressac conceded that no architectural drawing described these spaces as anything other than morgues.
In response to Faurisson's request for a proof, "one single proof" of a gas chamber designed to kill human beings, Pressac came up with a famous juxtaposition: he was able to show that one of the basements of Crematorium III was equipped with 14 showers and a gastight door. According to Pressac, these two things could not be explained in any other way except by saying that this space functioned as a gas chamber, in which people were murdered with poison gas while thinking they were going to take a shower. The balance of Pressac's evidence consisted of "39 criminal traces", that is, thirty-nine instances of words or objects found in various records which, in Pressac's view, could only have a homicidal explanation.
The Criminal Traces have been subjected to many critical analyses, of which our own Technique was just one. Therefore, we do not plan to go over the Traces comprehensively here, although we will discuss them again in selective detail later. Still, a few minor points are work making.
The first is that, in terms of the types of traces Pressac found, the vast majority of them had to do with relatively innocuous terms, such as showers, heaters, and the like, and about two dozen that had to do with doors or windows that were specified as "gastight" (gasdicht). For the most part, Pressac based his argument for gas chambers on the presence of these gastight fixtures. The question then was whether these gastight fixtures had to do with gassing people, or gassing things.
Revisionist responses to the gastight traces usually followed Faurisson's tradition of interpreting gastightness in terms of delousing or disinfection. There were some problems with this interpretative model. For example, some of the gastight doors were specified as having peepholes, and it was further assumed that most of them were so equipped. But disinfection with Zyklon B did not require a peepholed door. Even so, there was some evidence that peepholed doors had been used for delousing and disinfection elsewhere. Another problem with the disinfection model is that small windows, or gastight coverings for such windows, was not a typical part of the disinfection literature. Therefore, while the disinfection explanation was certainly a counter-explanation, it was not a particularly satisfying one, and it failed to satisfy us.
1.3 .The Lay of the Land
Before proceeding farther, we should orient ourselves to the crematoria in Birkenau to make the subsequent discussion easier to follow. Figure 1 is an aerial photograph taken by Allied air forces in August of 1944. It has been oriented to the North. Above and below are two large buildings, each one has a stubby "T" shape, the leg of the "T" indicating the location of the chimney and the incinerator. Extending to the west of each structure one can discern the outline of a long low semi-subterranean room, which for both buildings is called "Morgue #2" (Leichenkeller 2) on all architectural drawings. These are supposed to have been the undressing rooms where people undressed before they were gassed. At right angles to Morgue #2, also mostly underground, and on the opposite side from the chimney, one can see two other basements, smaller than Morgue #2. These basements are designated as "Morgue #1" (Leichenkeller 1) on all known architectural drawings, and these are supposed to have been the gas chambers. Note further that both Morgues #1 have markings on their roofs. For the Morgue #1 on the top of the photo, we note that the four marks or smudges are in a kind of zigzag pattern. In the case of Morgue #1 at the bottom, the markings run down the center of the structure. These markings are supposed to be the "holes in the roof" through which the poison was introduced into the gas chamber.
The building on the bottom of the photo is usually known as "Crematorium II", it being the second crematorium put into operation, the first one being at the Stammlager at Auschwitz. Sometimes it is referred to as "BW 30", meaning it was the 30th building project for the Construction Office, sometimes as Krema II, etc. The building at the top of the photo is "Crematorium III", also known as or Krema III, or "BW 30a".
Today both of the crematoria are in ruins, they were taken apart by the Germans before abandoning the camp. The various basements survive also in ruins as large pits in the ground. The sole exception to this is the Morgue #1 of Crematorium II, whose reinforced concrete ceiling did not shatter into pieces, as was the case with the other basement ceiling slabs. The ceiling has largely collapsed towards the ground, but the explosion that knocked out its supporting pillars left some of these standing, and did not break the inner web of reinforcing steel rods. Therefore, it is possible to inspect this site in detail, both from the top, which is covered with a layer of rubble, and from below, because one can actually enter into the southernmost quarter of the basement and inspect the ceiling, take samples from the concrete, and so on.
There are two significant things to remember about this basement, Morgue #1 of Crematorium II. The first is that inspection of the roof from either the top or the bottom has shown no trace of the four holes through which the gas was supposedly introduced into the space. In this respect, a very important concession was made by the defense witness van Pelt who agreed that there are presently no holes visible. True, two holes in the roof are present today, but these are off-center, do not match up to the markings in the photos, and, in light of Professor van Pelt's concession, it appears there is agreement that these two holes have nothing to do with the four holes through which the poison gas was said to be induced.
The second point to remember about Morgue #1 of Crematorium II is that about half a million people are supposed to have been fatally gassed within it.
Our next photograph, Figure 2, is of Crematoria IV, located about a quarter-mile north of Crematoria II and III. This is a much less complicated structure than the other two crematoria, and has its own mirror image in Crematoria V, just on the other side of this photo. What we see on the left of the structure is the lower west wing of Crematorium IV, and here there were supposed to be two or three gas chambers. Note the small windows barely visible in this wing: these are supposed to have been the windows through which the poison gas was thrown into the rooms. Like Crematoria II and III, IV and V have alternate names, i.e., BW 30b and BW 30c. These structures were blown up and are present now merely as the cement foundation slabs of the structures, with some low reconstruction of walls. These buildings had no basements.
1.4. Technique and Operation of German Anti-Gas Shelters
In early 1997, we decided that it would be appropriate to attempt to restate some traditional revisionist arguments in a manner that would be non-confrontative and conciliatory. We felt it necessary to do so because of the oppressive climate of censorship that had come to surround the subject of the Holocaust. This taboo threatened the criminalization of revisionist writings — already in force on the European continent — in the English speaking world. We felt then, and we still feel, that to censor revisionism on the subject of the Holocaust would be very bad, and, rather than try to defend the point with philosophical abstractions, we thought it would be more effective to try to show the merits of the long-standing revisionist challenge. It was hoped in this way that the intellectual classes, who had chosen to remain mum on the issue of censorship, would at least have pause to reflect on the extent to which they had subordinated their social obligation to intellectual inquiry to the comforts of emotion and ideology.
Very early in our research we began to look for possible non-empirical sources for the gassing claims, because, we reasoned, if they were not true or were exaggerated, the stories still must have come from somewhere, and it was a task of historical reconstruction to determine their origin. We noted a few stray references to air raid shelter doors in some testimonies and found that all air raid shelter doors were equipped with peepholes, and furthermore were gastight, since the Germans were very concerned about the possibilities of aerial gas attack. Following up on the matter, we compared the Criminal Traces of Pressac with the German civil air defense literature, and found an almost perfect fit. Our main conclusion, therefore, was that the Criminal Traces were indistinguishable from the objects and nomenclature of German civil air defense.
If the main thrust of Technique hinged on the identity of the gastight fixtures described in the Criminal Traces and the fixtures found in the German civil defense literature, we should note that the critiques of Mattogno and van Pelt do not substantially challenge this claim. Hence, it would seem fair to claim these gastight fixtures as civil defense fixtures. However, due to the contentious nature of the subject and the lack of documentary proof, we ought to stress a distinction between the civil air defense origin of these fixtures, which has not been effectively challenged, and the civil air defense intent behind the placing of these fixtures, which is the actual point of controversy.
We should also note that there has been one minor claim about the gastight doors, which should be discussed briefly. This is the argument that the peepholes of the gastight doors allegedly used to gas people were covered on the inside — ostensibly so that the people being gassed could not break the glass of the peephole — rather than on the outside. The claim stems from the postwar deposition made for the Polish investigators by Henryk Tauber, a former inmate of Auschwitz. There is also a photograph of a door that has a wire mesh covering on the inside.
There are several problems with this proposed distinction. First, the doors are not identical. The door Tauber described was wooden parquet, the door in the photograph straight wooden boards. The second problem is that gastight doors for civil air defense or gas protection purposes could have the peephole covered either on the inside, or the outside, or even not at all, and such variation would be hardly surprising for makeshift doors made on site, which was the case with most of the gastight doors at Auschwitz. This was indeed already noted in the footnotes to Technique. The third problem is that none of the other makeshift gastight doors pictured in Pressac's book have a covering for the peephole on the outside, and none of these are claimed as doors to homicidal gas chambers. Therefore, we consider this distinction precious.
Figure 3 provides a view of a standard German air raid shelter door. This particular door is identical to one of the doors found at Majdanek in August, 1944, of which a casting is now on display at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. We note that the covering for the peephole is on the outside of the door, and that the locking latches can be worked from either the inside or the outside. We also note to the right a shutter or Blende for making a window gastight and behind it a wire mesh screen. Such doors as these were rather expensive, being made of steel, and they were designed to provide not only gas protection but also protection against bomb splinters (Gasschutz und Splitterschutz).
Figure 4 shows a view of the NW angle of the Stammlager crematoria, taken at about the time of the Polish investigatory commission, in May of 1945. We note that there is an air raid shelter door to the right, as one would expect, since this crematorium was converted to a bomb shelter in 1944. To the left, we can see the kind of parquet door to which Tauber referred, leading to a storeroom. In the middle, we can see a former prisoner, perhaps Tauber himself, who has donned his prisoner garb for the occasion, and who appears to be weeping. Apparently, this photo opportunity was staged in order to communicate something sinister about the bomb shelter door on the right.
Figure 5 shows a typical model for constructing a gastight door out of wood for air raid shelter purposes as found in the German civil air defense literature.
Such a makeshift bomb shelter door would provide gas protection but minimal protection against splinters. Such doors were usually made out of straight wooden boards, and gastightness was achieved in two ways: paper was glued along the cracks of the boards, and felt was nailed along the outside of the door. We note that, in this case, the peephole is not round, and appears to be completely unprotected. There were a number of doors similar to this found at Auschwitz at its liberation, see Figures 6 and 7. Some had round peepholes, some square, some protected, some not. As noted, none appear to have had the protection for the peephole on the outside. Only the heavy steel doors appear to have been so equipped.
Finally, Figure 8 presents a photograph of a makeshift window shutter, designed to provide a gastight seal for the windows, emergency exits, or other openings of a bomb shelter. We note that this is identical in appearance to the shutter shown in Figure 3, above. Figure 9 presents a shutter that Pressac claimed was one of the "gastight doors" meant to cover the gas chambers of Crematoria IV and V. We will express doubts about Pressac's argument later, but for now, we simply note the essential identity of this shutter and those shown in the civil air defense literature.
1.5. Defending Against the Allied Bombing Campaign
The response to Technique was not great, and, anyway, we were more concerned with returning to our original project which was writing a brief essay that, we hoped, would break a lance on behalf of free speech for revisionism. However Technique raised a number of questions, and curious about these, we attempted to research them to the extent that our limitations in time and resources allowed. Obviously, one of the main questions had to do with the issue of other bomb shelters: if the gastight fixtures found in the Birkenau crematoria really were of civil air defense origin, then we should be able to find similar fixtures elsewhere, and indeed, virtually everywhere.
Defending Against the Allied Bombing Campaign was meant to explore that question, but in the process that led us to the literature of the German civilian experience under the bombs, an experience that in itself was worthy of consideration. Therefore, while in Part 1 of that article we were able to establish the commonplace nature of gastight fixtures in German homes and apartment buildings, we also sought to provide a brief analysis of that experience. In Part 2, lacking documentary evidence, we sought to infer the commonplace nature of civil air defense, and thus gastight fixtures, in the concentration camps as well, based on photographs, architectural drawings, and by inference from postwar studies.
The one point in Defending worth stressing at this point is that the German authorities established a program in the fall of 1940, stipulating that all structures, and particularly all new structures in the armaments industry (which included the concentration camps) were to be equipped with air raid shelters. In addition, it was found that the concentration camps were also supposed to be equipped with air raid shelters for the prisoners, although usually these were of a rather primitive kind, the so-called "trench shelters" or Luftschutzdeckungsgräben.
The criticisms that have been made of the bomb shelter thesis to this point have been for the most part based on the limited comparative analysis found in Technique. On the other hand, the analysis of Defending concerns matters that are not really debatable, except the inferences concerning the concentration camps most of which will be recapitulated in the course of the present study.
1.6. Precursors of the Bomb Shelter Thesis
Before setting forth our documents, we should acknowledge the precursors of the bomb shelter thesis. The first of these was Wilhelm Stäglich, a former judge, who suggested that the gastight door described in the gasdichte Türme letter was a bomb shelter door. Stäglich's comments were made in passing, for the reason that when he made them back in the early 1970's no one was really paying much attention to the documentary record, since, as we have seen, it was at that time essentially confined to two documents. Nevertheless, we consulted his book after writing Technique and Defending on a hunch that, as a former Luftwaffe officer, he might have some kind of intuitive reaction to the issue of gastight doors. Our guess was correct, at least as far as our thesis was concerned.
The next person who needs to be recognized is Friedrich Berg, who has accumulated over the years a vast archive of materials concerning conditions in wartime Germany. He also perceived that there was something to the issue of German civil defense and the camps, although, as an engineer, he was more interested in the performance of diesel engines relative to the gassing claims. Robert Faurisson also made a brief reference to the issue of gastight doors for bomb shelters in his critique of Pressac, but did not pursue the matter. There may have been others, and of course, there was the contribution of Arthur R. Butz, already described.
The point is that the general recognition of the importance of German civil air defense in explaining the gastight fixtures at Auschwitz has come solely from the non-traditional side. Not one traditional historian of the Holocaust has even noticed the significance of German civil air defense. What this means is that the bomb shelter thesis, even if only partly proved, would vindicate revisionism in general, just as it would vindicate intellectual inquiries grounded in skepticism and creativity as opposed to those based on adherence to orthodoxies and pre-determined outcomes.
Part Two: Bomb Shelter Documents
2.1. Introduction: The Wider Context
In Technique and Defending we made the argument for the existence of bomb shelters primarily on the basis of primary and secondary literature concerning civil air defense, the Criminal Traces, and various photographic and other kinds of evidence such as we could locate. We were not able to present documents because these were unavailable. In the intervening years we have managed to accumulate some documents, and will present them here. First, however, we want to examine the wider context of German civil air defense measures in Eastern Europe during World War Two, not only because it supports the bomb shelter thesis for Auschwitz but also because it enables us to provide some explanation as to how we interpret documents. Therefore, we begin with a discussion of five documents, the term being used loosely here.
Document 1 — Guidelines for Bomb Shelter Construction in the GG (Source: NA, T501, Roll 216, 1444-1447)
The first document we present is a set of directions dated August 6, 1942, entitled "Richtlinien für den Aufbau der Luftschutzes im Bereich des M.i.G." or "Guidelines for the Construction of Air Raid Shelters in the Area of the Military Authority in the Government General", meaning occupied Poland.
The document covers ground familiar to Defending: it stresses the need to build air raid shelters, these are to be constructed such that the entire occupancy of a building are accommodated, basements are to be used, and if there are no basements, ground floors are to be used, attention should be paid to anti-gas measures, and so on.
This is an example of what we would call a high-level document: it comes from an official source, it articulates policy, and it says something about intentions. Historians generally rely on such documents in order to establish when something "began". For example, it is customary to reference the beginning of euthanasia in Nazi Germany to a Hitler decree dated September 1, 1939, and we reference the "orderly and humane" transfer of some fourteen million Eastern Germans to the Potsdam Conference declaration of August 2, 1945.
The weakness of such documents is that while they describe general tendencies or attitudes, they do not tell us how, or even whether, the higher directive in question was implemented. For example, we know that the euthanasia decree was retroactive, and that it was actually signed in October 1939. Furthermore, the decree fails to tell us anything about the program. In the second case, we know that the Germans of Eastern Europe had been expelled under conditions that were neither orderly nor humane for some months even before the Potsdam announcement. So we can see that high level documents are high level in two senses: first, they come from high up in a hierarchy, and second, they frequently bear no relation to the actual historical reality on the ground. To get a sense of that historical reality, we need to go farther down.
Still, high level documents are useful and not only because they provide convenient starting dates. For example, if other information concerning air raid shelters surfaced in occupied Poland, an earlier high level document could explain the impetus behind these later activities. As it is, the document tells us only that civil air defense measures became a priority in occupied Poland at this time, and therefore the implementation of civil air defense measures can be inferred, but not proved.
Document 2 — Entries from the Diaries of Hans Frank, (Source: Präg, Jacobmeyer, eds., Das Diensttagebuch des deutschen Generalgouverneurs in Polen, 1939-1945, p. 565f)
The next document consists of two references from an abstract of the voluminous diaries of Hans Frank, who was the Governor of occupied Poland. Ideally, we would want the two entries themselves in front of us, but due to the difficulty in obtaining sources historians frequently rely on such abstracts. Even so, reliance on other people's abstracts has the drawback that the historian is bound to see the documents filtered through someone else's eyes: the preference for seeing the original documents cannot be over-stressed.
There are two entries of particular interest:
"September 22, 1942
[...] secret defensive measures — gas mask distribution, gas rationing [...]
September 24, 1942
[...] Directions for the distribution of people's gas masks with "Chemical Weapons Use By the Enemy" — code word "Cloud" or "Thunderstorm" --, provision of gas masks to "several categories" of the non-German population."
[...] geheime Verteidigungssachen — Gasmaskenverteilung, Benzinsparmaßnahmen [...]
[...] Anweisungen zur Verteilung von Volksgasmasken bei "Einsatz chemischer Kampstoffe durch den Feind" — Stichwort "Wolke" bzw. "Gewitter" --, Versorgung "einzelnen Kategorien" der nichtdeutschen Bevölkerung mit Gasmasken.]
The document supports the contention that civil air defense was becoming a pressing issue in occupied Poland at this time, because of the connection of gas warfare with aerial attacks. We could reasonably hypothesize continuity between these entries and the high-level directive of almost two months before. The Frank diary entries also give us some proof that the civil air defense directive of August was being implemented.
For lack of a better term, we would classify this document as a mid-level source. By this we mean to convey the idea that it is a document that carries with it some of the authority, scope, and comprehension of a high level document but at the same time provides some low-level detail. But it is also important to note that mid-level documents are highly relative to the situation being researched. Frank's diary is a good source for information concerning the implementation of civil air defense measures in occupied Poland, but that is partly because he was the Governor of occupied Poland: he was part of the hierarchy in question. On the other hand, we could not use Frank's diary as a mid-level source for, say, military activity on the Western Front, because that would be outside his hierarchy and Frank's words would not carry any authority. Under such conditions, Frank's diary might be useful as a low-level anecdotal source, but no more.
This is an important distinction because we note that Frank makes a passing reference to atrocities. There are other diaries, written at the same time, which also describe atrocities and specifically, mass gassings: the diaries of Anne Frank, Victor Klemperer, and Emanuel Ringleblum. But all of these individuals wrote from outside the hierarchy that was carrying out these atrocities and hence their remarks cannot have any authority. At best, they can provide low level anecdotal evidence for what was actually happening on the ground, but at the same time they can provide good mid-level evidence for what people were actually talking about and hearing over the BBC.
Returning to the subject of civil air defense in Poland, we can conclude on the basis of the Frank diary entries that civil air defense measures were being implemented in Poland, and, together with the first document, we can begin to see a more connected structure of policy and implementation.
Document 3 — Orders from Lublin (Majdanek) to Auert in Berlin, September 26, 1942 (Source: Kogon, E., others, eds. Nationalsozialistische Massentötungen durch Giftgas, p. 319)
Unfortunately, this is another document for which we lack the originals. It is referenced in Eugen Kogon's book, apparently from the part of the book written by Hans Marszalek, and the reference reads:
"Documents of the Central Construction Office of the Waffen-SS and Police on 26 September 1942, National State Archive Lublin ä Document #17, delivery numbers of the Firm 656, 657, and 659."
This is what we would call a classic low-level document, something which contains an explicit description but without any surrounding context. In this case, we are lucky to have some of the doors still in existence, where they can be found at the Majdanek concentration camp. Therefore, we know that these were air raid shelter doors.
Following on the documents we have already seen, it would be natural to conclude that the authorities in Majdanek decided to order some bomb shelter doors in accordance with the general civil air defense policy being implemented at that time. At least, that would be the common sense explanation. However, other explanations insist that these doors were used either for homicidal gassing or for disinfection purposes. However that may be, the fact is that the Majdanek camp ordered several bomb shelter doors at a time when occupied Poland was in the midst of implementing civil air defense measures. Therefore, it seems to us that the most reasonable explanation is that the doors were ordered with civil air defense in mind, regardless of how the doors may have been used.
Document 4 — The Stroop Report, May, 1943 (Source: Nuremberg Document, PS-1061)
This famous report on the destruction of the Warsaw ghetto in May of 1943 contains two references relevant to our subject:
"While pretending to build air-raid shelters they had been erecting dug-outs within the former Ghetto ever since the autumn of 1942. These were intended to conceal every Jew during the new evacuation action, which they had expected for quite a time, and to enable them to resist the invaders in a concerted action. [...]
According to depositions made yesterday and today, the Jews were asked during the second half of 1942 to erect air-raid shelters. At that time under the camouflage of erecting air-raid shelters, they began to build the dugouts, which they are now inhabiting, in order to use them for an anti-Jewish [sic!] operation."
We would consider the Stroop Report to be an excellent mid-level source on the destruction of the Warsaw Ghetto. However, on the matter of civil defense, it lies outside the relevant hierarchy and becomes essentially an eyewitness account. Eyewitness accounts are extremely valuable to the historian in providing texture and color to historical descriptions, but just because they are limited to the eyewitness, they are very unreliable in terms of surrounding context. Hence, they have to be used cautiously, the historian's own judgment ultimately being the deciding factor.
In evaluating Stroop's remarks about civil air defense in the Warsaw ghetto we find him making claims about air raid protection for Jews in Poland that run up against our usual perceptions about the German treatment of Jews. Accordingly, if we were to encounter these references alone, we would be highly skeptical about them. However, since the remarks fit in well with the other documents we have seen, we feel justified in accepting their general validity — but again we stress that we would not be inclined to do so without high and mid-level support.
Document 5 — Nuremberg Testimony about the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt, April 23, 1946 (Source: International Military Tribunal, XII, p. 75)
Our fifth and final document is from the postwar testimony of Joseph Buehler, one of Hans Frank's aides. While being examined by Dr. Seidl, who was acting as defense attorney for Frank, the following exchange occurred:
"DR. SEIDL: What did you learn afterwards about the events at the ghetto in Warsaw in 1943?
BUEHLER: I heard what practically everybody heard, that an uprising had broken out in the ghetto which had long been prepared; that the Jews had used the building materials given them for the purpose of air-raid protection to set up defense works; and that during the uprising violent resistance was encountered by the German troops."
This is another example of low-level evidence and it is of the least reliable kind. The evidence is not contemporaneous with what it describes. The person repeating the information is not an eyewitness. The information was given in a judicial setting where any desire for accuracy would be in contention with many other motives. Therefore, we would not be inclined to give the testimony much weight at all.
The fact that the testimony matches the claims of the Stroop Report is not impressive, because it could be that the witness was just repeating rumors or garbled reports that he had heard around the time of the Warsaw Ghetto revolt. In fact, precisely because such testimony comes after the fact the possibility of such influence cannot be discounted. Moreover, like the Stroop Report, it makes a claim about the German treatment of the Jewish people that is inconsistent with what we usually read. Nevertheless, precisely because the testimony matches up well with all of the other documents and is consistent with them we can accept this testimony as true.
The above traversal of five documents, or really, types of evidence, makes it clear that civil air defense measures were being implemented in occupied Poland beginning in 1942: to be exact, from August 6,1942. These measures were already advanced by late September of that year. The implementation of these measures extended to the remaining Jewish population of Poland in the city of Warsaw, as well as to the concentration camp in Lublin. These are all reasonable facts that emerge from the documents.
The problem is that, concerning the claim of mass gassing, and in particular, the claim of mass gassing at Auschwitz, we do not have such documents. There is no high-level document ordering the gassing of people at Auschwitz. There is no mid-level document ordering, or even discussing the gassing of people at Auschwitz. The low-level documents including work orders, requests for materials, and so forth comprise the Criminal Traces. None of these contains any reference to gassing people. There are no contemporaneous eyewitness reports except a purported one, the Franke-Gricksch report, a clumsily typed copy of which did not emerge until thirty years after the war, and which has never been authenticated. The evidence supporting the claim for mass gassings at Auschwitz comes almost entirely from postwar accounts generated at judicial hearings, and, as we noted earlier, all judicial proceedings including and subsequent to the International Military Tribunal operated under the assumption that the gassings took place. It is for these reasons that people are skeptical of the gassing claim.
The absence of any high or mid-level documents is usually explained by saying that the Nazis deliberately left none behind, in other words, there was a conspiracy not to create any documents. However, that claim itself comes from postwar accounts, and so this argument uses the least reliable kind of evidence to account for the absence of the most reliable kind of evidence. All conspiracy theories are similarly constructed.
Furthermore, the gaps in the documentation, given the scope of the alleged events, are huge. It is frequently said nowadays that historical events are "proved" by a "convergence of evidence" in which a multiplicity of sources "converge" on a fact. But no competent historian works that way. If the historian begins with a high level document, he or she then looks for mid- and low-level confirmation: for documents to cover every step of the way. If, on the other hand, the search begins at the bottom with an eyewitness account or a vague reference, the existence of higher orders of evidence is inferred, and these are searched for until they are found. Part of the historian's craft is knowing where to look to find the connecting documents.
There are two reasons why the above method is the proper procedure for any historian. First, because history is not only a matter of what happened, but also how it happened. This attitude presupposes laying out a hierarchy of documents that will provide a plausible causal chain. Second, and consequently, the historian will instantly recognize the difference between a large quantity of evidence, and the qualitative distribution of that evidence in a hierarchy. If the historian begins with, say, half a dozen eyewitness accounts, he or she will not see any value in a half dozen more: what is needed at that point is the evidence from higher levels that will explain how what the eyewitnesses described took place. In fact, the very first thing a historian should do, when confronted with two eyewitness accounts that describe something similar, is to make sure that there is no point of contact between the accounts, or that the two accounts do not come from a third narrative. Holocaust historians are particularly weak in this area.
The "convergence of evidence" model is borrowed from evolution, specifically, from evolutionary biology. For the historian, the absence of evidence for gassing in a continuous hierarchy is a serious problem; just as an evolutionary biologist would be dumbfounded if he or she found entire geological strata in which there was no evidence of life at all. That is the proper analogy for the magnitude of the problem faced here. It should be added that we have not constructed these levels of documents to suit our thesis: on the contrary, precisely because of a critical gap in our mid-level documentation, we will not be able to prove the bomb shelter thesis in its entirety.
2.2. High Level Documents About Bomb Shelters
Most of the documents that will be cited from here on come from the files of the Auschwitz Central Construction Office so it seems appropriate to say a few words about the layout of these files. The story goes that when Auschwitz was liberated on January 27, 1945, most of the files in the camp were destroyed but the files of the Central Construction Office were left intact. These files, in turn, were used by the Soviet Special Commission to write its report of May 6, 1945 (known by its Nuremberg designation of USSR-008.) The bulk of the files were then moved to Moscow where they were forgotten for many years, but some of the files (or carbon copies) were left behind for the Polish Commission on Auschwitz which sat in 1945 and 1946. These latter files form the backbone of the collections of the National Museum at Auschwitz (known as "PMO"), and these files were for many years the basis for most research on Auschwitz, conducted successively by Faurisson, Pressac, van Pelt, and Mattogno.
The Soviet Union announced the existence of the Central Construction Office holdings in 1989. Gerald Fleming and Pressac, both traditional Holocaust historians, consulted the collections shortly thereafter in order to obtain documents supporting their interpretations. Over the last five years, a number of revisionists have worked in the Central Construction Office archives slowly accumulating materials, including Michael Gärtner, Manfred Gerner, Hans Nowak, Werner Rademacher, and, above all, Carlo Mattogno and Jürgen Graf, the latter two having made several highly publicized visits to the archives.
The holdings for the Central Construction Office comprise over 83,000 pages. They are assigned with an overall cache or archive number ("Fond") that references the collection in Moscow where they are located, in this case, "502". In addition, the files are divided into another five groupings, or inventories ("Opisi"). Almost all of the directly relevant materials from the Central Construction Office archives come from Fond 502, Opis 1. In addition, there is a folder number, of which there are about 450 in the 502-1 series. The folders comprise materials on specific topics, and can run from a single page, for example, 502-1-141, which is a 1943 document about central heating, up to 700 pages or more, as in the case of 502-1-92, which consists of correspondence with a number of firms about constructing workshops. The average for the 450 folders of the 502-1 set is about 125 pages apiece.
At some point, the individual folders were bound in cardboard covers, with an index card in Russian pasted to the front describing the contents. The subject of the folders is generally thematic: for example, Folders 327-340 comprise about 1,800 pages on disinfection and fumigation, Folders 305-318 comprise a like amount of material on the crematoria, and so forth. The pages within each folder are sometimes marked, and sometimes not. When they are marked, the notation has been made in pen or pencil in the upper right hand corner, and sometimes these numbers have been crossed out and replaced with another series. In the documents presented here, most of the page numbers have been rendered illegible by the copying process or else the pages were never numbered in the first place. In such cases as the page numbers are both legible and make any sense in terms of a series, we have given them. Otherwise, we have just listed the folder location, thus 502-1-141.
The individual folders and the larger groupings thereof indicate some coherent organization, therefore we are inclined to believe that the files exist more or less as they were found. In fact, the folders present the usual organization of files, usually being in reverse chronological order, and often containing carbon copies. However, there is enough disorder in the files and in the ordering of the files that it seems clear that they were rifled at some point. Occasional quirks in the ordering of documents suggest that some files were removed. However, given the overall coherence of the files we doubt if there was any large-scale interpolation of files.
One exception concerns the well-known document of June 28, 1943, which claims a capacity of the five Auschwitz crematoria at 4,756 bodies per day. Pressac gave two reference numbers for the document, 502-1-314, and 502-1-324. When the German historian Manfred Gerner attempted to obtain the document, he was told that it was marked "502-1-314a". Carlo Mattogno claims that the correct filing of the document is 502-1-314, page 14a.
None of these references make much sense. Folder 502-1-324 is one of a series of folders concerning the "Faulgasanlage" at Auschwitz, that is, the folder concerns an attempt to extract methane gas from the sewage plant in Birkenau. On the other hand, 502-1-314 is indeed a folder in the crematoria series, but it is a 36 page folder consisting of correspondence with Topf & Sons and other firms concerning the construction and equipment of the crematoria. Yet the June 28, 1943 document is supposed to be a letter from the Central Construction Office to General Kammler in Berlin and concerns the burning capacity of the crematoria. There is no logical reason why this letter would be in either one of these files.
When confronted with a document that is inconsistent with the surrounding documents there are a few possible explanations. The document may have been misfiled. But in that case, we would expect to find analogous documents in roughly adjacent folders. In this case, there are none. Or it is possible that the surrounding documents have been removed. In this case, the surrounding documents would only be incriminating, so it is unlikely that any surrounding documents were removed by the Soviets. Nor is it likely that the Germans pulled the surrounding documents because it would have been a lot simpler just to burn the slender file in its entirety. Finally, the possibility exists that the document was interpolated later. That appears to us to be the most likely explanation. We now turn to consider some other documents.
Document 6 — Sofortmassnahmen bei Bomben- und Brandschäden, September 14, 1940 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-1 p. 8)
The first document is a two-page circular concerning emergency measures to repair damage from bombs and fire in air raids. It holds no particular interest, except that it is the first document in the Central Construction Office files on the subject of civil air defense. The document could satisfy a general requirement if we were looking for a high level document to set a starting date for a general awareness of air raids and civil air defense at Auschwitz.
Document 7 — Memo on Fighting Phosphorous Fires December 21, 1940 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-1 np)
The document is a single page copy from the "Reichminister der Luftfahrt und Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe, Inspektion des Luftschutzes" and is simply a cautionary note on the proper method of fighting phosphorous fires, which were the main component of allied incendiary raids. The document gives appropriate reference to various civil air defense directives.
There are a couple of points of interest. First, the document is dated December 21, 1940, but was not signed until January 2, 1941. Second, the evolving rubber stamp of the Central Construction Office (here in its second form) has the document stamped 12 Jan 1941, some ten days later.
The date of correspondence versus the date the correspondence is stamped in the Central Construction Office will later on become an issue, so we offer our thoughts on that here. Some documents are dated on a given day, and are stamped by the Central Construction Office two or three days later. On the other hand, with other documents the gap between the date of the document and its stamp date can be many days or even weeks. In general, we are going to conclude that the normal time for mail delivery is about two or three days. But we are going to further argue that the stamp date represents the date, not when the document was received in the Central Construction Office, but rather the date the document was routed through the office for signature just before being filed. In other words, for some documents we are going to argue that the gap between the document date and the stamp date indicates that the document was pending during the interim.
Document 8 — Erweiterer Selbstschutz in Barackenlagern January 4, 1941 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-1 p. 8)
A further document, also from the Inspektion des Luftschutzes, concerning further "self-protection" measures for barracks and other buildings. There is no stamp on the document, which is a copy of a copy.
The four-page document contains the usual cautions and indications concerning the construction of bomb shelters, such as were discussed in Defending. Included is the stipulation that newly constructed works ("Werke") should be equipped with bomb shelters for the workers, that trench shelters (Luftschutzdeckungsgräben), should be constructed, that wooden barracks should be at least ten meters apart to prevent fires from spreading, that gas masks should be provided, and so on. The one point of interest concerns an apparent over-riding concern with fighting fires.
Document 9 — Blaues Licht während der Verdunklung April 16, 1941 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-1 np)
This is another single page document, signed by Steffens, and coming from the office of Reichsminister Todt. It concerns the conviction of Adolf Hitler that blue light for blackout conditions is superior to red light, along with a recommendation to use blue lights for achieving blackouts. The document is not particularly interesting, except that it underlines the extent to which red light was the usual method of achieving blackouts, and it further indicates the extent to which Hitler would involve himself in minutiae.
The document is a copy of a copy, and is stamped May 15, 1941; this indicates, according to our analysis, that it took awhile to generate the copies of the document and further that it was pending for an indeterminate period of time.
Document 10 — Heinemann Offer to Build Luftschutzdeckungsgräben, January 27, 1942 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-400)
The document consists of a cover letter from the firm Heinemann & Co. in Berlin, to the "SS-Neubauleitung" at Auschwitz, consisting of an offer to build trench shelters, with a four-page attachment providing details. It is the only document in this Central Construction Office folder, the first of eight folders comprising approximately 800 pages of bomb shelter documents.
Four pages of cost estimates accompany the letter. The letter is stamped January 29, 1942, that is, two days from the date sent, which gives us a benchmark for correspondence. The document appears to be a blind bid for services, making reference only to the Reichmarschall's (i.e., Goering's) regulations on civil air defense. The quick routing date, plus the absence of any further correspondence indicates that nothing came of this bid, but the document does demonstrate the extent to which civil air defense would be assumed in the concentration camps even at this early point in time.
Document 11 — Building Regulations for 1942, March 6, 1942 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-95, p.121ff)
This is a three-page document that sets out building regulations for the third year of the war. On the second page, there is a paragraph that deals with the rationing of scarce materials, including iron, and which mentions in passing:
[Massivdecken eisensparend. Decken über Luftschutzräumen wölben, mindestens aber die Feldlängen durch Stützen und Unterzüge unterteilen. [...]
Öfen und Herde sowie Gasschutztüren und Blenden in eisensparender Bauweise.]
What we find interesting in this document is that civil air defense measures are mentioned quite casually in the context of general building regulations. This goes to the point that the equipment of new buildings with bomb shelters was simply assumed, even by early 1942.
Document 12 — Civil Defense Security Directive, Himmler to Glücks, February 8, 1943 (Source: Hilberg, Destruction of the European Jews, p. 584 n58)
This is a document already cited in Defending, referenced by Hilberg as Himmler Files, Folder no. 67. It has not been possible to locate the document because the Himmler records at the US National Archives are in a different format than they were when Hilberg used them, and they are in a highly disorganized state.
The document, sent to both Pohl and Glücks, consisted of instructions on establishing security in the concentration camps to ensure that there would be no mass escapes. The document, in our view, is significant in three ways. First, because it establishes an awareness of the need for civil air defense in the concentration camps at the highest level of the SS by early February, 1943. Second, because security needs would certainly justify the alternative use of the Birkenau crematoria in the case of air attack. Third, because an obvious antidote to prevent prisoner escapes would be to provide the prisoners with some measure of security so that they would have a stake in maintaining order in an air raid.
Document 13 — Kammler Guidelines #39 for Civil Air Defense, March 6, 1943 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-8 np)
This is by far the longest document pertaining to civil air defense in the top level, consisting of a fifteen-page set of guidelines (Richtlinien) from General Kammler, the head of SS construction projects, in Berlin, followed by a three page supplement of no date. It has a wide distribution list, including the Central Construction Office at Auschwitz. The document is dated March 6, 1943, the routing stamp is dated June 19, 1943, and bears the usual initials. There are scribbles at the top of the page, including a large one that appears to be the name of Kirschneck, who was the overall building supervisor at Auschwitz and directly subordinate to Karl Bischoff, the head of the Central Construction Office at this time. (Kirschneck's name frequently is scribbled at the top of documents.) A further date and scribble indicates that it was initialed by other members of the office on June 29, 1943 as well as July 1, 1943. We conclude because of these dates and annotations as well as the time gap between the document date and the stamp date that it was given full consideration at the time.
The document, which copies a lot of information from Luftwaffe sources from 1942, stresses protection against splinters (Splitter), rubble (Gebäudetrummer) and incendiary bombs (Brandbomben), gives guidelines for constructing trench shelters (Luftschutzdecken), and gives specifications for providing splinter protection (Splitterschutz) for buildings.
In the general section of the guidelines, it is said that experience has shown that the greatest damage in air raids is caused by splinters from high explosive bombs (Sprengbomben). It goes on to say that this can be limited in many ways, for example, by angling the entrances to buildings or by diminishing the size of apertures through which light enters (i.e., Minderung des Tageslichtseintritts), which would mean windows among other things. It is also stated that new and existing buildings can be adapted to provide splinter and rubble protection.
In terms of specific measures, the Guidelines emphasize that windows or other ventilation openings are to be pitched high, to protect the contents of the facilities inside, and to the extent that the need for daylight allows. The size and number of doors or gates are to be limited. Doors and windows are to be protected against splinters either inside or outside, preferably with the use of splinter walls (Splitterschutzwände).
The document obviously has some importance concerning the implementation of civil air defense measures at Auschwitz, considering only its length and the attention paid to it. We are also reminded that both Kammler and Bischoff were relatively recent SS, having come over from the Luftwaffe in 1940, and we can surmise that both of them would have been well aware of these kinds of instructions even before these guidelines were issued. It is also relevant that the guidelines were issued at the beginning of March, 1943, and filed at the beginning of July, 1943, the same time frame for the completion and fitting out of the crematoria with gastight fixtures.
Document 14 — Letter About Security, Pohl to Himmler, April 5, 1944 (Source: Nuremberg Document, NO-021)
This is a letter from Pohl to Himmler describing security precautions at the Auschwitz camp, and should be read with Himmler's analogous letter from February 8, 1943 in mind. We quote a few extracts:
"As to the security measures taken for case A, I report as follows:
1. Camp I includes the compact camp for men with a present strength of approximately 16,000 inmates.
It is surrounded with a fence and by barbed wire which, as in all concentration camps, is electrically charged. Besides there are watch towers mounted with machine guns.
Camp II is situated about 3 km. from camp I. It accommodates 15,000 male and 21,000 female inmates. Of a total of 36,000 inmates approximately 15,000 are unable to work. Camp II is also surrounded by an electrically charged wire fence; there are also watchtowers. [...]
2. Of the total number of 67,000 inmates those in the subsidiary camps and those hospitalized have to be deducted if the question of a threatening revolt or escapes in Upper Silesia is to be considered.
Of the total number, 67,000 inmates; 15,000 are to be deducted, those in subsidiary camps (camp III), and the number of the hospitalized and disabled, 18,000; so that practically 34,000 inmates have to be reckoned with. In case A this would mean danger to Auschwitz if security measures were insufficient.
3. 2,300 SS men are available to guard the inmates of camp I and II, including the staff of camp headquarters who are to be detailed in case A. In addition there are 650 guards available for the subsidiary camps of camp III. [...]
4. Apart from the direct security of camp I and II by manned watch towers and electrically chargeable wire fences, a line of bunkers has been constructed as an inner ring which will be manned by SS men. On the enclosed map, this line of bunkers is marked in red. [...]
The Luftwaffe units stationed in Auschwitz in the strength of 1,000 men are available provided the alert does not coincide with an air raid. These Luftwaffe units can however not absolutely be counted upon. In drafting the plan of operation [Einsatzplan] this has been taken into consideration. "
The document essentially confirms that Himmler's decree of the previous year has been implemented. The use of the crematoria to facilitate the security on the western perimeter is, we believe, a highly probable inference. It is also worth noting, in passing, that some 27% of the inmate strength is non-working.
Document 15 — Behelfsmässiges Bauen der Waffen-SS, August 30, 1944 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-1, p. 417)
This is a single page letter from General Kammler of the WVHA to the Building Inspectorate of the Waffen-SS in Silesia, to which Bischoff had been promoted, which stresses that all makeshift structures should be inspected. In context, we believe that this also refers to the civil air defense directives.
This completes a brief survey of high level documents pertaining to civil air defense found in the files of the Central Construction Office at Auschwitz. It is clear that the Central Construction Office was in receipt of various directives and orders concerning civil air defense from the early fall of 1940. By 1942, it was obvious, even to firms in Berlin that the concentration camp system would be in the market for dedicated civil air defense bunkers. By early 1943, there were two high level directives concerning civil air defense that were directed to Auschwitz: the Himmler Order of February 8, 1943, and the Kammler Guidelines of March 6, 1943. The Himmler Order stressed security, that is, the need to protect against mass breakouts. In this respect we should keep in mind that the crematoria, as well as the Central Sauna, were the only large fixed structures on the western periphery of the camp to provide potential protection and security. The Kammler Guidelines are probably even more important, bearing in mind the close relationship of Bischoff and Kammler.
From a purely documentary point of view, the interpretation of the disputed low-level documents in terms of civil air defense, that is, the Criminal Traces, could be justified at any point subsequent to the fall of 1940. This justification becomes more pronounced from the fall of 1942, due to the analogous developments in Occupied Poland, and even more pronounced in early 1943, due to the Himmler Order, the Kammler Guidelines, and not least the first bombing raid on the Auschwitz area on May 4, 1943. However, the justification for interpreting the low-level documents in this way is not the same thing as correctly interpreting these documents, so now we turn to see what else we can find.
2.3. Mid-Level Documents About Bomb Shelters
Document 16 — Pohl Itinerary, September 23, 1942 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-19, pp. 86-103 )
The first documents of this class consists of the materials having to do with General Oswald Pohl, who was the head of the Economic Administration of the SS (WVHA). Pohl visited Auschwitz on September 23, 1942, which we note is roughly the same time as the Frank diary entries and the Majdanek-Auert work orders cited earlier.
The documents begin with an itinerary, and then gives the records of some speeches and meetings. Overall, Pohl's speech is upbeat, with typical appeals to the inner sense of duty of his audience, who we must remember, were 1,000 miles behind the pre-Stalingrad front performing essentially thankless work. The meeting concerned for the most part all kinds of building projects that had to do with developing the area around the camp, only towards the end of the meeting was the necessity of building the sewage plant stressed, due to the danger of epidemics.
The itinerary makes no visits to possible bomb shelter sites but does list the following stops:
"German Armaments Factory Disinfection and Effects Barracks / Aktion Reinhard New Horse Barracks Camp Birkenau Station 2 of Aktion Reinhardt Military Barracks in Birkenau Airport at Harmense Reservoir Construction Dam Construction on the Vistula Economic Enterprise at Budy Raisko Sewer Gas Facility [in pen] Sewage Treatment Facility"
[DAW Entwesung- u. Effektenkammer /Aktion Reinhard/ Neuer Pferdestallhof Lager Birkenau Station 2 der Aktion Reinhardt Truppenlager Birkenau Geflügelhof Harmense Teichausbau Dammbau an der Weichsel Wirschaftshof Budy Raisko Faulgasanlage [in pen] Kläranlage]
There are numerous other pen notations that indicate that the camp capacity of Birkenau is foreseen as 12,000 men and 18,000 women, and suggests that there are only about 1,000 persons at Birkenau at this time. A later document in the series however (p. 90) indicates that there were 16,000 in Birkenau at the time, of which about 3,000, or 18% were incapable of work.
While these documents show that civil air defense was not a high priority at this time; the documents do provide some other information. It is interesting to note, for example, a reference to "Aktion Reinhardt" spelled in both the traditional and the revisionist manner, in the same document, and in a document that clearly has to do with plunder and which has nothing to do with the eastern camps, with which the name "Aktion Reinhardt" is supposed to be exclusively associated.
Document 17 — Pohl Building Recommendations, June 16, 1944 (Source: Nuremberg Document, NO-259)
The document is a three-page memorandum (Aktenvermerk) recording a meeting on June 16, 1944, and covering mostly construction issues. The occasion was another visit by General Pohl. There were 10 participants, including many of the leading personalities at the camp, including Höß, Bischoff (now promoted to the building inspectorate of the Waffen-SS), Baer, Dr. Wirths, and Jothann (Bischoff's successor as head of the Central Construction Office).
This is a rather well known document; there are at least two copies in the Moscow Archives and in addition the document was introduced in the Concentration Camp Trial, #4, of the Nuremberg Military Tribunal as NO-259.
The document, after a brief introduction, lists some 35 building projects to be carried out, including several recommendations for civil air defense. However, the entries that seemed most important in 1947 were:
"10. Three barracks for the emergency measure 'Operation Jews'. [...]
16. Camouflage of the crematories, and security measures by constructing a second fence (the camouflage has to be effected by rush-mats which have to be obtained by the SS Standortverwaltung [SS garrison administration] ).
17. Construction of six mortuaries in Ba I and II."
The three barracks being discussed are probably barracks in the Mexico section of the camp or else in the Kanada section, for the plunder taken from the deported Hungarians: the German word is "Judenaktion." The camouflage reference is usually taken in a sinister sense. However, given a number of civil air defense measures in the document, plus the reference to security measures requiring a second fence, we are not so sure if this reference does not follow in some way from Pohl's letter to Himmler in April.
The part that we find most curious is the reference to the construction of six mortuaries (Leichenkammern) in Ba I and II, that is, in the two main Birkenau camps. This strongly suggests that the morgues of the crematoria were no longer being used as morgues at this time. Otherwise, it would not be necessary to build more of them. Furthermore, this directive is frankly incomprehensible in terms of the alleged burn rates attained at this time, in which some ten thousand people could be incinerated per day in the crematoria and the associated burning pits. It needs to be said that there is no hint of this other activity in this document at all.
Document 18 — Minutes of Meeting on Civil Air Defense Measures, June 28, 1944
The document is another four-page memorandum (Aktenvermerk), this time of a conference concerning air raid measures implemented at Auschwitz that took place on June 26, 1944. There were 15 participants, including Höß, Bischoff, Baer, Kramer, Dr. Wirths, Jothann, Hoessler, and Dr. Münch of the Hygiene Institute at Raisko.
The document itemizes all of the civil air defense measures that were to be implemented, including:
- Construction of a civil air defense command post as well as telephone/telex and radio commands in the basements of the Commandant's house,
- In Camp 1, the construction of fire fighting reservoirs and splinter protection for all of the basement windows of the prisoner barracks, and the construction of two rooms in the new reception center (Wäscherei) for the Block leaders,
- In Camp 2 (Birkenau), the construction of four trench shelters of reinforced concrete for 50 men each, for the SS and the Block leaders,
- At the "Wirtschaftshof Birkenau", the construction of two trench shelters for 240 prisoners apiece,
- At the airport at Harmense, the conversion of a basement in the castle (Schloss) to a shelter for the prisoners,
- At Budy, the construction of a trench shelter for 50 men, and two trench shelters for 420 prisoners (the use of the basements of existing structures is assumed),
- At the Womens' Camp at Budy, trench shelters for 440 prisoners,
- At Wirtschaftshof Babitz, three trench shelters for 30 men, 200 female prisoners and 200 male prisoners,
- At the Pflanzensucht at Raisko, several trench shelters, including one for 550 prisoners,
- At the German Armaments Factory (DAW), splinter walls for the basement windows of the main buildings\.
Under the heading "General" (Allgemeines) we read:
"For fire watch twelve observation bunkers.
Protective measures for the prisoners of Camp I in the way of trench shelters are not possible because of the lack of available space. However, two to three thousand prisoners can be sheltered in the basements [of the existing buildings.]
In Camp II [Birkenau] in view of the high water table and the lack of space trench shelters can also not be provided for the prisoners.
The prisoners of the DAW can find protection at night in the basements. Open ditches cannot be provided in view of the available space."
für Feuer- und Brandwache 12 Stück Beobachtungsbunker
Als Schutzmassnahmen für Häftlinge des Lager I ist die Anlage von Splitterschutzgräben nicht möglich auf Grund der vorhandenen Freiflächen. Es können jedoch 2-3000 Häftlinge in den vorhandenen Kellerräumen untergebracht werden.
Im Lager II können ebenfalls Splitterschutzgräben für Häftlinge mit Rücksicht auf den Grundwasserstand und die vorhandenen Freiflächen nicht angelegt werden.
Die Häftlinge der DAW. finden in der Nacht in den Kellerräumen den entsprechenden Splitterschutz. Offene Gräben können mit Rücksicht auf den hier vorhandenen Mangel an Freiflächen auch nicht angelegt werden.]
- Finally, the memorandum lists some completed structures, including some 20 fire fighting reservoirs, each of 400 cubic meters, and ten trench shelters in reinforced concrete.
The document makes it clear that, by midsummer of 1944, there were very ambitious plans in place for providing civil air defense throughout the Auschwitz camp complex. Furthermore, the document assumes the use of existing buildings for civil air defense purposes, although the individual buildings are not specified. Given the fact that Crematoria II and III as well as the Central Sauna were all equipped with basements, and given that they were among only a handful of fixed structures on the western side of the Birkenau, the use of these basements can certainly be inferred from this date. Finally, the document makes it clear that many of these shelters, using either existing buildings or dedicated trench shelters, are to be used to provide shelter for thousands of prisoners. In cases where there is a scarcity of shelters available, as at Birkenau, the shelters are to be provided on a preferential basis to the SS and the Block Leaders.
A further point is that attempts to construct even more shelters at both Auschwitz and Birkenau were frustrated by the lack of space and in the latter case by the high water table. Document 31 describes the construction of 10 trench shelters at Birkenau, each 60 meters at length, but these shelters do not appear to be referenced in the June 26 meeting, about two weeks later.
In our opinion, the document is strong evidence of a German intention to provide overall civil air defense protection, for both the SS and the prisoners. However, the indication that shelters cannot be built in Birkenau because of the high water table undercuts our interpretation, in Defending, that the mounds in front of the prisoner barracks were trench shelters. It may be that this interpretation was wrong, or it may be that, despite the high water table, further attempts were made to protect the prisoners later that summer. Particularly with regard to Document 31, it is hard to say if the attempt was made, but then set aside, or then resumed.
However one thing is certain: efforts were made to protect some prisoners with trench shelters, and, as will be shown below, all of these trench shelters were equipped with gastight doors.
Document 19 — Civil Air Defense Inspection by von Mirbach, December 6, 1943 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-401)
The next document concerns a civil air defense inspection of Auschwitz that took place on December 6, 1943, conducted by Oberstleutnant von Mirbach of the Luftgaukommando VIII from Krakow, and involving Bischoff, Jothann, Josten (in charge of civil air defense), and Liebehentschel, the new commandant of the camp. The purpose of the inspection was to determine the extent to which the Auschwitz camp and its several satellites were prepared for air attacks. Von Mirbach's observations were made in point form:
"That blackout conditions in the several SS barracks in the camp area had been prepared and had been exactly observed for a long time.
All the measures for blackouts in the camp barracks as well as the several camp buildings had been carried out.
Trench shelters for all of the SS men and the workers living in the camp had already been planned and were, with the construction of concrete formworks already begun."
[dass die Verdunklungsbestimmungen in den einzelnen SS-Unterkünften im Lagerbereich bereits seit längerer Zeit genauestens beachtet werden.
für die Verdunkelung der Lagerunterkünfte und die einzelnen Verwaltungsdienstellen sind sämtliche Massnahmen getroffen.
für die Sicherung bei etwaigen Angriffen nicht in Einsatz stehender SS-Männer des Wachverbandes der Verwaltungsstellen sowie der im Lagerbereich wohnenden Arbeiter ist die Anlage von Splitterschutzgräben gemäss den geltenden Bestimmungen bereits geplant and wurde mit dem Herstellen sowie Einbau der BetonformsTücke die Zentralbauleitung bereits begonnen.]
Von Mirbach's report also contains the following:
"In view of the streets, the drainage, and the heavy overcrowding of the various parts of the camp, trench shelters cannot be provided for the prisoners of the base camp or the prisoner of war camp [i.e., Birkenau -SC]. Therefore for greater security a second cordon should be built. [...]
The meeting followed a drive through the various camps. At this time, Oberstleutnant von Mirbach recommended that the basement windows of the fixed structures in the base camp should be equipped with splinter shutters."
[Die Anlage von Splitterschutzgräben für die Häftlinge des Stammlagers bzw. Des KGL. Is mit Rücksicht auf die vorhanden Strassen, Be- und Entwasserungsanlagen und der starken Belegung der einzelnen Bauabschnitte nicht durchführbar. Zur besonderen Sicherheit wurde daher bereits ein zweiter Sperrgürtel ausgebaut. [...]
Der Besprechung folgte eine Fahrt durch die einzelnen Lager. Hierbei wird von Oberstleutnant von Mirbach das Anbringen von Splitterschutzblenden von der Kellerfenstern der unterkellerten Massivegebäude des Stammalgers angeregt.]
There are three main points of interest to this document. First, the inspection makes it clear that blackout conditions at least had been "exactly observed for a long time." This implies a long-standing awareness of civil air defense in the camp. Second, the inspection recommends already the equipment of the basements of the existing structures in the base camp with splinter shutters.
The third point is particularly interesting inasmuch as it was over-ridden later: this concerns von Mirbach's judgment that it would not be possible to build any shelters for the prisoners. Yet the minutes of the meeting from the following June, as well as Document 31, show that this recommendation was at least partly vacated. Further in this respect is the fact that von Mirbach's solution to this problem is to simply call for greater security, an attitude that follows in line with Himmler's February 8, 1943 directive and Pohl's letter to Himmler of April 5, 1944.
Documents 20/22 — Documents from Fall, 1943 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-401, also 502-1-26)
These documents include two of the documents that are presented on the website of the British historian David Irving (www.fpp.co.uk/Auschwitz/documents/LSKeller/MoscowDocs.html). These consist of two memoranda and a letter by Walter Dejaco, who was an architect of the Central Construction Office. The dates are September 21, October 25, and November 5, all 1943. The letter of September 21 and the memo from October 25 both reference a telex from August 23, 1943. (See English translations)
All of the materials have to do with the production and delivery of concrete shells to be used for trench shelter construction at Auschwitz. The October 25, 1943 memorandum mentions 176 of these shells, while the November 5, 1943 memorandum mentions the "first 500 meters of concrete." Consequently, we concluded originally that this document referenced the construction of hundreds of air raid shelters in the camp.
However, this conclusion was wrong, first, because the construction of the shells was not understood (they are practically oval) and second because the problem with the high water table at Birkenau was not evident. In addition, whatever the problem with the water table, it seemed to be contradicted by the photographic evidence of what appeared to be trench shelters in Birkenau. Still, the minutes of the June 26, 1944 civil air defense meeting, the von Mirbach inspection of December 6, 1943, and some low-level documents below will make clear that these shells were indeed to be used to construct trench shelters for both the SS and the prisoners, including at Birkenau: if not hundreds, then as many as possible.
The overall picture that emerges from these mid-level documents is that the attempt to build dedicated trench shelters did not begin until the summer of 1943. In fact, we can reasonably carry the attempt backwards to the telex of August 23, 1943, mentioned in some of the fall 1943 documents.
From that point on, it appears that the plan to build dedicated shelters was frustrated by various breakdowns and shortages. However, from the point of view of our thesis the number of actual shelters built is not relevant, the intention is what counts, because that enables us to infer a similar intention for the equipment of the crematoria.
The official record of the June 26, 1944 meeting is very relevant, although it comes late in the chronological scheme. It certainly is of decisive importance in supporting our prior assertions in Documents concerning the intent to build shelters for the inmates as well as to use existing basements for civil air defense purposes. However, the von Mirbach inspection of the previous December does not enable us to extend the implementation of civil air defense measures back indefinitely. To be sure, the document says that blackout conditions have been "exactly observed for a long time", from which we can reasonably infer several months at least. In this respect, we are reminded of the "30 fittings for red lamps" for Crematoria IV and V and the fence surrounding Kanada that was referenced in Technique, a work order dated August 11, 1943. Since this is just a few weeks after the last of the gastight fixtures were sent to the crematoria, it seems reasonable to us that the various gastight fixtures were fitted with a civil air defense end in view. But again, while that may be a reasonable interpretation it may not be the correct one.
Overall then we have to concede that while we have top level documents covering the entire history of the camp, the mid-level documents only take us back to the summer of 1943, and do not carry us back explicitly to the gastight fixtures of the Birkenau crematoria.
2.4. Low Level Documents Concerning Bomb Shelters
Document 23 — Request for 12 "Trockenklosette" for LS-Bunkers, October 4, 1944 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-401, p. 114)
A half-page memo to Jostens, the civil air defense leader in the camp, that requests twelve toilets as follows:
"the air raid shelters by the Waffen-SS house, the Record house, Caesar's house, Professor Clauberg's house, as well as for the two trench shelters at the agricultural center at Raisko."
[Um Abgabe von 12 Stück Trockenklosette für die LS-Bunker beim Haus d. Waffen-SS, Haus Rekord, Haus Caesar, Haus Prof. Clauberg sowie für 2 LS-Deckungsgräben für die Landwirtschaft in Raisko wird gebeten.]
The document simply points up the fact that trench shelters were constructed and that "bunkers" were set up either in or by existing buildings.
Document 24 — Building Construction Form, October 18, 1944 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-95, np)
This is a single page form describing a work project, listed as "2 Luftschutzbunker, BW: 98 E, L". Under #6, "Baubeschreibung", or project description, there is a brief listing of work to be done, and includes "Eisenbetondecke, gasdichte Türe", that is, reinforced concrete roof, gastight doors. The document is not particularly remarkable, but it is included here to show that the plural "Türen" can be occasionally misspelled, however, but not as "Türme".
Document 25 — Construction of a Gastight Operating Room, October 17, 1944 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-402 p. 39)
A half-page memo from Bischoff, now with the Waffen-SS building inspectorate, referencing "Ausbau eines gasdicht Behandlungsraumes und Splitterschutzraumes in ehemaligen Crematorium", that is, "Construction of a gastight operating room and splinter-proof shelters in the former crematorium."
The document supports the contention that makeshift adaptations and conversions would be gastight, there is also a pen notation referencing the work as "BW 98 M", from which we make the inference that BW 98 was a catchall for bomb shelter adaptations while the letters designated specific locations.
Document 26 — Concerning LS-Bunkers as Trench Shelters, September 20, 1944 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-402)
The document concerns the construction of four "LS-Bunker" and describes the equipment of these with emergency exits, the exits to be filled with gravel for security. The document also references the regulations for the construction of trench shelters, the version dated March, 1943. The document is useful mostly because it demonstrates that the use of the terminology was interchangeable: bunkers are not normally referred to as trench shelters, and vice versa.
Document 27 — Concerning Construction of Shelters, September 18, 1944 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-402)
This is a half page memo from Jothann to the Commandant describing the detailing of work parties for the four bunkers described in Document 26, including prisoner laborers. The memo also contains a reference to a prisoner work party to repair bomb damage to "Haus 210". This is probably in response to one of the Allied bombing raids on the camp, several of which occurred in late August and early September 1944.
Document 28 — Delivery of Ventilation Pipes for Shelters, September 11, 1944 (Source: ZBL 502-1-401, np)
This is a single page letter from Jothann, head of the Central Construction Office, to the BAKO firm in Berlin, concerning the delivery of 500 ventilation pipes for trench shelters (500 Stück Lüftungsrohren für LS-Deckungsgräben). Apparently, there was a misunderstanding and BAKO had sent ten times as many ventilation pipes as were needed. The letter indicates that there is no use for 400 of the ventilation pipes and asks what should be done with these. The letter concludes with a request for 100 bomb shelter doors (LS-Türen).
Document 29 — Memo and Sketch of Ventilation Pipes, September 11, 1944 (Source: Ibid.)
This is an enclosure to Document 28, consisting of a cover memo about the ventilation pipes, here called "Luftschutzverschlüsse" amd a drawing of one, titled "Gasdichte Lüftungsrohrverschlüsse für LS-Deckungsgräben", which shows a typical cylindrical pipe, with a conical cap on top ("Regenhaube") and with a gastight seal at the base. The whole arrangement is strongly suggestive of a "tower" emerging from the roof of the shelter.
Document 30 — Invoice for 45 RM for Prisoner Work on Crematorium II, June 2, 1943 (Source: Ibid.)
The very next two pages in this folder consists of an invoice and pay stub made out for 45 Marks for prisoner labor concerning work performed on Bauwerk 30, or Crematorium II. The invoice is dated June 2, 1943. There are several written indications that we cannot make out. Overall, the document is a curiosity, and it is not easy to explain why it is found in a folder devoted to civil air defense measures. It may have some relevance, but it would be hard to establish exactly what that would be, under present circumstances.
Document 31 — Bauliche LS-Massnahmen, June 9, 1944 (Source: ZBL 502-1-401)
This is a two page document from early June, that is, prior to Pohl's visit on June 16 or the air raid shelter conference on June 26. It consists of a memo from Jothann, the head of the Central Construction Ofice, to Höß, who has returned to the camp to oversee the breakup of the camp into three parts. The memo informs Höß that there are currently plans to construct 20 firefighting reservoirs in Camp I (Auschwitz) and 12 in Camp II (Birkenau). In addition, the memo indicates plans to build 10 trench shelters, each 60 meters in length (sic!), in Camp I (Auschwitz) and 10 more in Camp II (Birkenau.) The memo goes on to say "Hiervon sind bereits 10 Gräben bis auf den Einbau der gasdichte Türen fertiggestellt", that is, "So far ten of the trench shelters have been built and equipped with gastight doors."
Document 32 — BW 98 LS-Gräben Inventory, May 11, 1944 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-402, pp. 41-52)
The document consists of several pages giving inventories of the work to be done for the construction of trench shelters. There are two entries of particular interest.
First, #12 of the listings (page 42), reads as follows:
"Entry shaft to function as emergency exit 2.02 meters in length with 51 cm walls [...]. The shaft is to be covered with a sealant treated reinforced concrete plate of around 15 cm in thickness, if the entry covers are not delivered. Eight pieces of iron for entry steps are to be delivered and installed."
[Einsteigschacht als Notausgang 2,02 m gross mit 51 cm strk. Mauern und Fundamenten samt 1 Unterzug gemauert herzustellen. Schacht wird mit einer Eisenbetonplatte u. Estrich cca. 15 cm stark abgedeckt, ohne Lieferung des Einsteigdeckels. 8 Stück Einsteigeisen sind zu liefern und zu verzetzen.]
The relevance is that this description matches the two concrete tubes that lie in the center of the western walls of Morgue #1 of both Crematoria II and III. These were already identified as emergency exits in Defending. Pressac claimed that these had something to do with drainage, but there is no documentary basis for this view. (Pressac referenced Drawing 1300, which shows the drains converging about six to eight feet away from the western wall, which is irrelevant.) Furthermore, these concrete tubes, which still exist today, do not appear on any architectural drawings. Nor do these concrete tubes have any relevance for either the disinfection of gas chamber thesis.
The conclusion, which we consider unavoidable, is that Morgue #1 of both Crematoria II and III were adapted by means of these emergency exits into auxiliary bomb shelters at some point. We do not have the documents that tell us exactly when these concrete tubes were put in place, but our guess is that it must have taken place prior to Pohl's inspection of June 16, 1944, because that puts his request for "six mortuaries" into a comprehensible context.
The second entry, from page 49 of this file, concerns a further draft of #8 of the inventories which reads:
"7 pieces inner and outer gastight doors .85 m x 1.75 m to be put in with the help of the locksmith."
[7 Stück äussere und innere gasdichte Türen 0,85 x 1,75 mit Hilfe des Tischlers einsetzen.]
Document 33 — Felt Needed for Gastight Doors for Trench Shelters March 21, 1944 (Source: ZBL, 502-1-408)
A half page memo from the German Armaments Factory (DAW) at Auschwitz requesting felt. The memo reads as follows:
"For the trench shelters in the school garden we have prepared in accordance with the previous order four gastight doors, and therefore need 20 meters of felt stripping about five millimeters wide."
[für die Luftschutzdeckungsgräben (Schulgarten), fertigen wir laut obigem Auftrag 4 Stück gasdichte Türen, und benötigen hierzu, 20 lfdm. Filzstreifen ca, 5 mm breit.]
Document 34 — More Felt for Gastight Doors, March 25, 1944 (Source: 502-1-95, p. 60)
Another half page memo, a follow up to the memo of March 21, 1944, requesting another 20 meters of felt for the gastight doors, because the 20 meters provided was only enough for two doors.
[Mit unserem Schreiben [ä.] forderten wir 20 lfdm. Filzstreifen 2,5 cm breit, 5 mm star für gasdichte Türen der Luftschutzdeckungsgräben an.]
The two documents show that the trench shelters were equipped with gastight doors, and that felt was used to achieve gastightness, and that such doors were made by the German Armaments Factory (DAW). We should keep in mind that the gastight fixtures of the Criminal Traces were also made by the German Armaments Factory, and used felt to achieve gastightness. It is also interesting to note that this follow up memo was found in a completely different folder than the associated Document 33. This suggests some corruption of the files.
Document 35 — Ventilation Pipes and Gastight Doors for Shelters, March 24, 1944 (Source: 502-1-95, p. 61)
The document is headed "Zuweisung von Sicherheitsventilen und gassicheren Türen für LS-Deckungsräben", that is, allocation of gastight ventilators and doors for trench shelters."
This is a single page letter from Jothann to the construction suppliers in Kattowitz. The letter, which references a phone call between the architect Walter Dejaco and Engineer Andre, involves a request for 80 ventilation pipes and 40 gastight doors (80 Stück Sicherheitsventilen und 40 Stück gassicheren Türen) for the ten trench shelters to be constructed. It also requests 24 ventilation pipes and 12 gastight doors for the three shelters already completed.
Besides providing further evidence of the use of gastight doors and gastight ventilation pipes for trench shelters, the letter also indicates something about quantity: apparently, the shelters were rather large, each requiring four gastight doors.
Document 36 — Conversion of the Old Crematorium, August 26, 1944 (Source: 502-1-401)
The single page document sets forth the tasks that need to be performed to convert the old Crematorium I to an operating room and air raid shelter. We quote it in full:
[Auschwitz O/S, den 26.August.1944.-
As. LS 217 - Jo/B
An den SS-Standortältesten als örtl. Luftschutzleiter Auschwitz O/S
Betrifft: Ausbau des alten Crematoriums für Luftschutzzwecke
Anlagen: 1 Plan.
In der Anlage überreiche ich einen Plan über den Ausbau des alten Crematoriums für Luftschutzzwecke mit der Bitte um Genehmigung dieses Ausbaues.
Abbruch der alten Kammeröfen und reinigen der dabei anfallenden Ziegel zwecks Widerverwendung,
Auffüllen der Heizschächte und Heizkanäle mit dem beim Abbruch der Kammeröfen anfallendem Schutt und Altmaterial,
Durchbruch der Fenster- und Türöffnungen,
Einsetzen der GasschutzTüren, Fensterblenden, und Fenster,
Herstellung der für die Beheizungsöfen, sowie für die Ent- und Belüftung erforderlichen Mauerdurchbrüche und Schläuche,
Wasserinstallations- und Kanalisationsarbeiten,
Verlegen der vorhanden Lichtleitung entsprechend der Raumeinteilung,
Aussbesserung der Fußböden und Teilverlegung eines Holzfußbodens,
Ausbesserung des Daches and Anstrich desselben mit Gudron [Gudron is a kind of pitch - SC]
500 kg Zement, 400 kg Ziegel, 20 kg rundeisen, 50 m Eisenbahnschienen, 24 St Kanthölzer 10/15 cm, 4,80 m lang, 10 St Kanthölzer 10/15 cm, 3,90 m lang, 102 m^2 Bretter 25 mm stark, 13 St Fenster einflügelig 60 x 80 cm, 2 St Türen einflügelig 70 x 200 cm, 16 St Fensterblenden gas- und splittersicher, 7 St Türen gas- und splittersicher.
Josten [pen signature]
[some notations in pencil]
There are several points of interest to this document:
The doors and shutters described are identical to those described in the civil air defense literature.
The interior walls and roof are to be strengthened with wooden interior partitions and two by fours for roof support, no complicated rebuilding scheme is required, even for this full-scale conversion.
The plan makes specific reference to taking apart the old cremation ovens and using the leftover bricks to fill in the associated holes. Interestingly, there is nothing about filling in any other holes, although there is plenty about creating new ones.
The plan, in its request for gastight doors and shutters, a ventilation system, and heaters, strongly implies that none of these materials were on hand at the time of the morgue's conversion. This would in turn suggest that whatever previous use may have been made of the morgue of Crematorium I, it was used without gastight doors and shutters, a ventilation system, or heaters.
We note the identification of 16 Fensterblende (window shutters) to be constructed, and these are, apparently, to fill apertures of approximately 60 x 80 cm.
Turning now to Pressac, we find a series of photographs of shutters that Pressac found in the coke storeroom of Crematorium I in 1982. [ATO, 426f] The three shutters depicted show a height/width ratio of about 1:1.20 for the doors only, and Pressac confirms this when he gives the measurements for the door of one of the shutters as 52 x 43 cm. It would seem to be logical, given their approximate size, the location they were found, and the identity of these fixtures to ordinary civil air defense shutters, that these three shutters are in fact the remainder of the gastight shutters prepared for Crematorium I.
Yet Pressac claims that they were built for Crematoriums IV and V, and that these are remnants of the "12 gastight doors" fitted at those locations. If we consult the associated architectural drawings, however, we find that all of the relevant apertures at the western end of Crematoria IV and V are specified as dimensions 30 x 40 cm, and the work order for constructing the "little doors" specifies dimensions of 30 x 40 cm. Yet the shutters depicted by Pressac, at more than 40 x 50 cm, are too large for the apertures. It follows therefore that it is very unlikely that these shutters were ever meant for Crematoria IV and V.
On the other hand, in his description of Crematoria IV and V Pressac claimed that the openings to the windows of Crematoria IV and V were enlarged to 40 x 50 cm [ATO, 386]. If true, this would start to solve the problem, but there is no evidence supporting the assertion, except the window shutters that Pressac found. Hence we can reject Pressac's reasoning here as question begging. Therefore, we conclude that these shutters are in fact the remnants of the civil defense shutters prepared for Crematorium I.
There are a couple of serious implications of Pressac's misidentification. The first is that many observers waxed hysterical over the "discovery" of these shutters by Errol Morris during the shooting of his film on Fred Leuchter. The second is that the defense in the Irving v. Lipstadt trial offered a photo of one of these shutters — to be specific, PMO II-5-64/2 — as proof of homicidal gassings in Crematoriums IV and V. Meanwhile, witness van Pelt assured the court in his expert opinion and on the witness stand that this door was the "same size" as those used for Crematoriums IV and V although at 52 x 43 cm (the door only) it clearly could not have been. This indicates something less than precision on the part of the defense upon whose expert knowledge Justice Gray relied.
The final point about these shutters is that they essentially prove the bomb shelter thesis. When we first saw a photo of these shutters, shortly after writing Technique, we were amazed at their similarity to civil air defense Blende: and why wouldn't we be, because that is in fact what they were.
2.5. Summary and Conclusions
The high-level documents indicate that the Central Construction Office at Auschwitz was in receipt of memoranda and guidelines for the implementation of civil air defense measures, both for new shelters as well as for existing buildings, from September 1940. The Heinemann bid indicates that the idea of building dedicated civil air defense shelters even in the concentration camps was already generally assumed in Germany by the beginning of 1942. The building regulations of March, 1942, also assume the implementation of civil air defense measures in new buildings, and they also assume iron conserving (i.e., wood) construction.
The data from the wider context of occupied Poland, including the order of the Auert doors for Majdanek, make it reasonable to assume that Auschwitz would be at least sensitive to the implementation of civil air defense and gas protection measures from the late summer of 1942. However, it was not an issue of sufficient importance to be mentioned by Pohl in his September, 1942 visit.
The Himmler directive to Glücks presumes the implementation of civil air defense measures in the camps, from the beginning of February 1943. The detailed guidelines from General Kammler of March 6, 1943 reinforce the idea that civil air defense was becoming important in the camp. In fact, we would consider Kammler's involvement a virtual guarantee of the implementation of civil air defense measures, since Kammler was in close contact with Bischoff in the Central Construction Office. It should be possible to say that somewhere between the fall of 1942 and the spring of 1943 the Central Construction Office at Auschwitz became aware of the need to implement civil air defense measures and began implementing them.
However, the attempt to construct dedicated air raid shelters in the form of trench shelters (LS-Deckungsgräben) did not begin until the summer of 1943, which we can see from the telex that initiated discussions over the delivery of prefabricated concrete shells. There appears to have been quite a bit of dithering over this project, and it is not until March of 1944 that we begin to see actual references to the finishing of such shelters.
Concerning these trench shelters, we can infer from the various memoranda that a number were planned, and we know that they were to be equipped with gastight doors and ventilation pipes. We also know from the minutes of the June 26, 1944 conference that many of these were to be allocated to the prisoners, and that several were to be built in Birkenau. Both the June 26, 1944 conference and the von Mirbach inspection of the previous December make it clear that there were limits on how many dedicated shelters could be constructed, due to the high water table at Birkenau, the overcrowding, and the lack of available space. Nevertheless, the same two documents make it clear that the basements of existing structures were to be used for air raid shelters, and, in the base camp, specifically for the prisoners.
In summary then, we have high-level documents that point to an increasing awareness of the need for the implementation of civil air defense measures. This awareness seems to reach two peaks, one in early 1943, with the issuance of the Himmler Order, the Kammler Guidelines, and the first bombing raid on the Auschwitz complex on May 4. The actual implementation of these measures, at least as it pertains to dedicated shelters, appeared to stall after that. The second peak in civil air defense awareness came the following spring, as indicated by the Pohl recommendations, the Pohl letter to Himmler, and the civil air defense conference on June 26. Yet the von Mirbach inspection of December 1943 also makes it clear that a certain level of civil air defense readiness had been achieved throughout the camp, although the document does not specify if anything other than blackout conditions had been met.
The actual measures implemented in 1944 involved the construction of trench shelters, and the adaptation of existing buildings. This was not merely an exercise in humanitarianism, but also had a definite security component: this is shown in Himmler's February, 1943 directive and the reply of Pohl a year later. The trench shelters were for the SS, the workers, and the prisoners, and these shelters were to be supplemented by the use of existing buildings. The existing buildings to be used for auxiliary civil air defense are not specified, either at Auschwitz or at Birkenau, but since the Central Sauna, and Crematoria II and III were all equipped with basements their alternate use for civil air defense purposes seems likely. Indeed, the memorandum from Pohl's June 16, 1944 visit tends to imply that morgues of Crematoria II and III were not in use as morgues by that time. The washing and bathing facilities at BW 5a, 5b and Crematoria IV and V could easily have doubled as decontamination centers in the event of an air raid, which could explain their equipment with gastight doors in the fall of 1942 and the spring of 1943.
The high level evidence is solid and continuous, and so is the low level evidence, at least from the early spring of 1944. What we are missing are mid-level references to the implementation of civil air defense measures from the fall of 1942 to August of 1943, when red lamps were ordered for the newly constructed fence around Kanada and the newly built Crematoria IV and V. A civil air defense purpose for the gastight listings in the Criminal Traces would be a reasonable interpretation, based on the forgoing documentation. However, considering the contentious nature of the claim, it is necessary to deal with the alternative explanations and the criticisms made by the advocates of those explanations. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that while there are gaps in the mid-level civil air defense documentation, no documentation of any kind has been presented to support the disinfection or gas chamber utilization of these particular gastight fixtures. Bearing that in mind, we now return to the "Criminal Traces."
Part Three: Reviewing the Criminal Traces
We have already reviewed the Criminal Traces in detail in Technique, and see no point in repeating that analysis here. All we intend to do is to go over some of the Traces to see to what extent we would revise our previous assessments.
Pressac lists 39 Criminal Traces, but actually there are only about 34, which can be summarized as follows:
#1 The word Vergasungskeller
#2 Gas Detectors
#3 Handle for Gastür
#4 Auskleideraum (Undressing Room)
#6 Gastür 100/192
#8 Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtung (4)
#9 Holzblenden (4)
#13 Flacheisen fur Gastürbeschläge
#14 Beschläge für 1 Stück Gastür
#16 14 Brausen
#17 12 Stück gasdichten Tür
#19 betonieren in Gasskammer
#21 betonieren in Gasskammer
#22 3 Gasdichte Tür
#23 Gastürverankerungen 210 Stück
#24 4 dichte Türen, mit Türfutter
#25 drei gasdichte Türme
#26 flacheisen für 5 Gastürbeschläge
#27 für 4 gasdichte Türen
#28 24 Ankerschrauben für gasdichte Türen
#29 Gastüren einsetzen
#30 Pre-heating the morgue
#31 Hot air supply to LK 1
#32 Beschläge fur gasdichte Tür
#33 1 Schlüssel für Gaskammer
#34 Die Beschläge zu 1 Tür mit Rahmen luftdicht mit Spion für Gaskammer
As noted previously, the basic identity of the gastight doors listed above with ordinary bomb shelter doors has never been seriously questioned. This assumes, of course, that the doors being referenced are the doors found at Auschwitz at its liberation, since only a couple of the Traces say anything about the nature of the gastight doors. For example, the "gasdichte Türme" letter describes a "Gastür" in this way:
Gas door with peephole of double 8 mm glass with rubber sealing and cover.
[Gastür ... mit Guckloch aus doppeltem 8 mm Glas mit Gummidichtung und Beschlag ... [cf. Technique]
a description which is markedly similar to this description from the civil air defense literature:
Every anti-gas bomb shelter door must be equipped with a peephole. [...] The disc of multi-layered glass of at least six millimeters in thickness should be protected from damage with a perforated steel plate.
[Jede gassichere SchutzraumTür muß mit einem Guckloch versehen sein. [ä.] Die mindestens 6 mm dick Scheibe aus Mehrschichtenglas muß durch eine gelochte Stahlscheibe nach aussen gegen Beschädigung geschütz sein. [cf. Technique]
Research by other revisionists, notably Nowak and Rademacher, have shown that the felt-stripping used for the makeshift doors manufactured by the German Armaments Works at Auschwitz would not have been "gastight" in any sense having to do with fumigation or extermination, particularly with cyanide gas. On the other hand, "gastight" in a civil air defense context was not directed so much against cyanide gas as against aerosols such as mustard gases, for which felt would suffice. Nowak and Rademacher have also produced documents that show that the doors used for disinfection purposes were of a completely different design than the doors found at the camp, or described in the Criminal Traces.
Therefore we repeat our judgment that gastight doors with peepholes, either at Auschwitz or at any other camp, are doors that have been constructed in accordance with German civil air defense specifications. In other words, there is no question that such doors are bomb shelter doors.
The gastight doors comprise half of the Criminal Traces, and so the question really is whether these civil air defense fixtures were used for other purposes, either for cyanide gas delousing or cyanide gas mass murder.
In addition, there has been discussion about the other traces, so we summarize them here with some brief comments.
Pressac translated this as "wire mesh insertion device" and claimed that it was a reference to wire mesh columns into which the Zyklon B was poured in order to kill the victims. The reference to the four "vorrichtungen" occurs on an inventory list for Crematorium II along with a reference to "4 Holzblenden", or four wooden shutters. We know that such shutters were typical for achieving a gas protection seal in the air raid shelter literature. Hence, we concluded that the wire mesh devices were simply wire mesh screens to fit into windows which the wooden shutters would cover, probably to provide some protection against bomb splinters, such a screen being normally called a "Splitterschuztvorrichtung."
The stem word "Einschieb" simply means "insert" in German, it does not mean something constructed so that something else can be inserted into it. We find it significant that van Pelt, in his expert report for the Irving-Lipstadt trial, avoided this trace altogether, probably because he did not want to have to defend Pressac's translation, although van Pelt did have a lot to say about wire mesh introduction devices. We see no reason to abandon our position on either this trace or the Holzblenden, although it is clear that the proper location for such paraphernalia would be vertical wall openings and these have not yet been discovered. It is worth pointing out that the conventional interpretation holds that the wire mesh columns and wooden "covers" had something to do with the holes in the roof of Morgue #1 of Crematorium II, but these holes haven't been discovered, either. It is also worth mentioning that no eyewitness has ever claimed that the holes in the roof were covered with wood.
3.3. drei gasdichte Türme
As we have seen, the document containing this reference was one of only two documents available to western historians for many years. At Nuremberg, the phrase was translated as "gas chambers" but it actually reads "three gastight towers", the key word Türme could also mean turrets (the architectural term for turret is "Turmchen".)
In Technique we argued that this was probably a reference to three gastight ventilation chimneys, another common object in the civil air defense literature. Pressac, on the other hand, and also van Pelt, have insisted that Türme is a misspelling for Tür and that this is a reference to "three gastight doors." Bearing in mind that "gastight doors" are common in the civil air defense literature also, we still find this explanation unconvincing. First, while the first paragraph of the letter has two references to Türme, the final paragraph has a specific reference to a gastight door, or, "Gastür." We find it hard to believe that a stenographer or typist would mishear or mistype a word twice in one paragraph and then hear or type it correctly a minute later. Furthermore, the misspelling, if there was one, involves more than one error: if the word was "doors" it would be typed "Türen" instead of "Türme." Van Pelt, who relies on this document, claims that it was written as "Türe" which reduces the mistakes by one but which compounds the grammatical error: the plural of Tür is Türen, not Türe.
Document 29 presented a picture of a Luftschutz-Verschlüss, or gastight ventilation chimney, of the kind used for the known trench shelters at Auschwitz. Other documents also indicate that gastight chimneys were common at Auschwitz for gas protection. Certainly, such gastight ventilation chimneys could be described as "gasdichte Türme", and we remain confident in our interpretation of this trace.
3.4. Other Gastight Doors/Krakow Protocols
The discussion of the "three gastight doors" leads us back to the Krakow Protocols, prepared at the time of the late 1946 hearings against Rudolf Höß. Most of Pressac's references to gastight fixtures come from these protocol lists, which are mainly abbreviated transcripts of work orders passed on to the German Armaments Factory at Auschwitz, but not the work orders themselves. Consequently, we lack the full context in many cases and cannot know if any original purpose was given on the orders. In other cases, we lack the previous orders that some of the work orders refer to, and which would help us reconstruct the intent. Hence, in response to Justice Gray's comments in this area, there is nothing suspicious about the fact that most of these references contain no explanation of the purpose for the gastight fixtures. The problem has to do with the indirect documentation, the absence of documentation, and possibly, the low-level quality of the evidence.
Pressac, having baptized the "gasdichte Türme" as gastight doors, then had to explain how two other orders preserved in the Krakow protocols described the delivery of four tight doors and four gastight doors to the same location: Crematorium IV. His explanation is not very persuasive, involving a hypothetical change of mind as to how many gas chambers there were going to be in Crematoria IV.
The bottom line is that if we look at the Krakow protocols with a view to trying to decipher them we soon find ourselves with a surplus of gastight doors. The work order of April 16 mentions the delivery of 4 gastight doors to Crematorium IV, but none of the identified gas chambers have four doors. The work order for February 19, referencing an order of January 18, lists the construction of 4 "tight" doors (dichte) for Crematorium IV. The "gasdichte Türme" letter of March 31 also references this missing January 18 letter. Crematoria IV and V are also the locations where "24 Ankerschrauben" for gastight doors, "210 Gastürverankerungen", as well as the "12 gastight doors" (for the windows) are to be sent.
At this point we have to ask ourselves what the design for the spaces themselves might indicate. Figure 10 is from an architectural drawing for Crematoria IV (or V.) According to the conventional interpretation, the westernmost room, and the larger room directly adjacent were gas chambers. Both spaces have two doors, one leading to the outside. Both spaces have small windows, measuring 30 x 40 cm. Both have small heaters (marked with an "X") which are fired from outside the room, and both are equipped with drains.
While the conventional interpretation is that these spaces were gas chambers, even Pressac has conceded that a gassing sequence for these two rooms would have been absurd. The delivery of the gas through the little windows would have been, in Pressac's phrase, a "circus act." The drains from the gas chambers linked up to the doctor's office two rooms away, making the use of cyanide gas rather risky. Cross ventilation would have been impossible, because, although each gas chamber had a door to the outside, the inside doors had to pass through two hallways before reaching the open air. Finally, there were no ventilation systems installed in these spaces, although apparently something was done about this in the summer of 1944.
It is not our purpose to declare spaces impossible for gassing, but if we were to do so the westernmost rooms of Crematoria IV and V would be the strongest candidates. We mean this not only in a homicidal sense but also in the usual revisionist sense of full-room exposure to poison gas. The same problems with using these rooms under one gassing scenario apply to the other, and, in addition, disinfection gassing installations would not be equipped with little windows that would be of little assistance in ventilation. Yet the fact remains that at least one of these rooms is referred to as a "Gasskammer."
In the workbooks for one of the civilian firms that constructed the crematoria Pressac found two references to "laying concrete in the Gasskammer," which Pressac interpreted as references to the construction of a homicidal gas chamber. The word is a misspelling, the proper German word is "Gaskammer." The problem with these references in terms of the gas chamber thesis is that "Gaskammer" is also the common word for spaces in which delousing and disinfection take place. So there is a kind of standoff between the homicidal and disinfection interpretations of this trace. In Technique, our interpretation was that there were several repetitions of the "Gass-" spelling here and elsewhere in the documents, and we interpreted it in a civil air defense context, thus "Gasskammer" was interpreted as a bracket form for a gas shelter, or Gass[chutz]kammer.
Bearing in mind the peculiarities of design construction, our best guess remains that these westernmost rooms contained bathing installations of some kind, and hence the drains, the heaters, and the two doors, to allow an entrance and exit. Equipped with gastight fixtures, these spaces, like the showers at the Natzweiler and Dachau crematoria, could have provided hot showers and would have served as auxiliary gas shelters for decontamination in the event of a poison gas attack.
3.6. Undressing Rooms and 14 Showers
Pressac defined the Undressing Rooms as Criminal Traces, and insisted that the showers installed were fake. We want to dwell on this issue in detail, and pursue the thesis that the showers were genuine.
The existence of genuine showers or other washing facilities in the crematoria supports the bomb shelter thesis, since an important function of bomb shelters and particularly gas shelters was to provide protection from as well as treatment for, poison gas attacks. We have noticed already the general equipment of spaces with gastight doors: this served primarily to provide collective protection against poison gas. Showers and other washing facilities were an integral part of large air raid shelters, and they were meant to not only serve basic hygienic purposes, but also to be used to cleanse those exposed to poison gas, of which mustard gas was the main agent feared. To that end, as we noted in Defending, it was customary to adapt existing public baths or laundries to serve as auxiliary decontamination centers. In Technique, we argued that the most logical explanation for the gastight sections of the crematoria, and in particular, the basements of Crematorium II and III, was that they were decontamination centers, because that provided the simplest explanation of the showers and the gastight doors described in the documents. We did not prove in Technique that the showers in the basement Morgue #1 of Crematorium III were real, but we assumed they were, and we re-examine the issue here.
There is one document about showers and Crematorium III that Pressac cited in his book. This was a telegram from Bischoff, who was the head of the Central Construction Office, to Kurt Prüfer, who was the head engineer for Topf & Sons, who built the crematoria ovens and attempted to provide a number of other products to the camp as well. It reads [ATO, 241]:
"Bring Monday [May 17] rough plan for production of hot water for about 100 showers. Fitting of heating coils or boiler in the waste incinerator at present under construction Krem III or system using the high temperatures of the flue gases. It would be possible to raise the brickwork of the furnace to take a large tank. Herr Prüfer is requested to bring the relevant drawings on Monday 15/5.
This document has been known at least since 1989, when Pressac's book appeared, and the general explanation for it has been that the Nazis had some plans to set up showers after they had completed their program of gassing and burning their enemies. This explanation, however, doesn't very well explain the urgency of Bischoff's request. It is worth quoting Pressac's commentary on this document [ATO, 236]:
"In this telegram, Jährling requested the urgent study of an installation to obtain hot water from the waste incinerator of Krematorium III, then under construction, to supply about one hundred showers (probably to be located in an annex building built on the southern wall of the Krematorium). Prüfer was supposed to bring the relevant drawings with him on the 17 of May. [This plan was never implemented, although such installations were built in other camps, for example in the crematorium of K L Natzweiler (Struthof) where the incinerator was the main source of heat for the showers.] Although this request for a hot water system for a hundred NORMAL showers was in no way criminal, it was recorded in the Krematorium III worksite 30a, file under the heading "SONDERMASSN[AHMEN]/SPECIAL MEASURES" because the building was connected with these measures, the killing and cremation of Jews unfit for work."
This interpretation is incorrect in all respects, as we will now show.
The telegram to Topf & Sons is part of a longer report in four parts, that is contained in folder 502-1-83 (p. 309ff) in the Central Construction Office files. We simply summarize the contents of that report, and provide some extracts.
The report begins with a cover letter from Bischoff to Kammler which begins:
[Auschwitz, am 16.5.1943
Bftgb.: 28 941/43/Eg/Lm
Betr.: Sondermassnahme für die Verbesserung der hygienischen Einrichtungen im KGL-Auschwitz]
In other words, "Special Measure for the Improvement of the Hygienic Conditions in the POW Camp Auschwitz", that is, Birkenau. The text of the letter begins:
[In der Anlage wird ein Bericht über die bisher getroffenen Massnahmen für die Verbesserung der hygienischen Einrichtungen im KGL ä]
That is, "in the attached is a report on the hitherto carried out measures for the improvement of the hygienic facilities in the POW camp."
There follows a two page report that is headed in the following manner:
Concerning the Completed Measures for the Implementation of the Special Program Decreed by the SS-Brigadeführer and Major General of the Waffen-SS Dr. Ing. Kammler"
über die getroffenen Maßnahmen für die Durchführung des durch SS-Brigadeführer und Generalmajor der Waffen-SS Dr. Ing. Kammler angeordneten Sonderprogrammes im KGL. Auschwitz]
The report dates the particular special program to May 12, 1943, and lists seven categories of activity, including work on the sewage treatment plant, cutting the King's Ditch (the main drainage ditch at Birkenau) through to the Vistula, work on the lavatories (Abortbaracken), washing barracks, and so on. The sixth listing is particularly relevant:
For the disinfection of the prisoners' clothing in the several parts of BA II an Organization Todt Disinfection Station is envisioned. In order to achieve a perfect bodily delousing for the prisoners, both of the existing prisoner baths in BA I will be equipped with hot water heaters and boilers, so that there will be hot water for the existing showers. It is further planned to run heating pipes from the incinerator at Crematorium III, to be used for the water in the showers to be set up in one of the basements of Crematorium III."
Zur Entwesung der Häfltingskleider is jeweils in den einzelnen Teillagern des BA II eine OT-Entwesungsanlage vorgesehen. Um eine einwandfreie Körpernentlausung für die Häftlinge durchführen zu können, werden in den beiden bestehenden Häftlingsbädern im BA I Heizkessel und Boiler eingebaut, damit für die bestehende Brauseanlage warmes Wasser zu Verfügung steht. Weiters ist geplant, im Krematorium III in dem Müllerverbrennungsofen Heizschlangen einzubauen, um durch diese das Wasser für eine im Keller des Krematoriums III zu errichtende Brauseanlage zu gewinnen. Bezüglich Durchführung der Konstruktion für diese Anlage wurde mit der Firma Topf & Söhne, Erfurt, verhandelt.]
The report is dated May 16, 1943, as is the cover letter. Next, we have a copy of the telegram sent to Prüfer, dated May 14, 1943, by way of supplementing the previous report.
Finally, we have a further three page report, dated May 13, 1943, which details the job assignments for the "special measures", now referred to as an "emergency program" (Sofortprogramm). Paragraph #9 reads as follows:
"Civilian worker Jährling is to carry out the construction of the hot water heaters and boilers in the washing barracks, as well as the showers in the undressing room of Crematorium III. SS-Sturmbannführer Bischoff still needs to talk to the camp commandant, SS-Obersturmbannführer Höß, about the showers. For the delousing ovens the SS-WVHA has still to send an Organization Todt drawing."
[Za. Jährling hat den Einbau von Kesseln und Boilern in den Washbaracken durchzuführen, desgleichen die Brausen im Auskleideraum des Krematoriums III. Wegen der Brausen wird SS-Sturmbannführer Bischoff noch mit dem Lagenkommandanten, SS-Obersturmbannführer Höß, Rücksprache nehmen.]
Note that Bischoff refers to himself in the third person here: since this letter comes three days before the report of May 16, we feel it is safe to conclude that Bischoff had authorization from Höß by that time.
On the basis of the above report, we feel justified in drawing the following conclusions:
The 14 showers mentioned on the Transfer Documents for Crematorium III were genuine.
We don't see how this conclusion can be avoided. If we argue that the 14 showers in the transfer documents of June 24, 1943 were fake, we would have to conclude that real showers were planned, but then a month later were replaced with fake ones. Indeed, the traditional narrative holds that Morgue #1 of Crematorium II had been used for two months prior to this report to gas people in a room equipped with fake showerheads. Since Crematorium III was supposed to have a comparable function, it would mean that Morgue #1 of Crematorium III was originally meant to have fake showers, then real ones, and then fake ones again. This is not believable.
"Undressing Rooms" are meant in the ordinary mortuary sense, not in any special sense.
A minor but significant conclusion. Bischoff originally suggested the location of the showers in an undressing room, which means that the room was understood to be an undressing room before the showers were contemplated. This can only mean that the word "undressing room" is being used in an ordinary mortuary sense, that is, as a space where bodies are cleaned and prepared prior to burial, or in this case, cremation.
The implementation of hygienic measures took precedence over any other alleged purposes for the crematoria cellars.
We consider this another inescapable conclusion, albeit a very controversial one. The traditional narrative holds that the crematoria were built to destroy the traces of persons who would be murdered in the basements with poison gas. But the report leaves no doubt that, for the sake of camp hygiene, this undocumented intended purpose of the crematoria was going to be suspended so that the camp population could take hot showers.
The crematoria were going to be used to provide ad hoc hygienic measures, prior to the completion of the Central Sauna (which was opened at the beginning of 1944), and possibly at times of high traffic thereafter.
This is an argument that we pointed to in late 1997, and has probably been made by others. In this case, at minimum, it was intended to use the basement spaces of Crematorium III to provide ad hoc showers for the camp population, and we know that 14 showers were installed. Here we should note that Mattogno has cited documents from June, 1943, which indicates that the water for the showers was not heated in the manner Bischoff envisioned in this report, and that the plans for installing showers covered both Crematoria II and III. This suggests that the 14 showers in Morgue #1 were not heated, or were heated by other means. Mattogno's data also suggests that Crematorium II may also have been equipped with showers at this time, or even before. The fact that showers were not mentioned on the Transfer Documents for Crematorium II could be explained by the fact that the showers were not originally planned for these structures, but were improvised. In addition, while Crematorium III was handed over to the camp in late June, that is, after Bischoff's report, Crematorium II was officially transferred to the camp at the end of March. By the way, Bischoff would have had no reason to mention Crematorium II in this report since Crematorium II broke down at the end of April, and was apparently out of service for several months.
Bischoff's telegram to Prüfer was overly ambitious and probably deliberately so.
This is a speculative conclusion, but one that seems right. The whole thrust of the report is that Bischoff wished to assure Kammler that, despite the delays in construction, work was proceeding energetically to solve all of the issues related to camp hygiene. We will review more documents of this kind shortly, suffice to say that just as in January Bischoff sought to convince Kammler that the crematoria were being completed more or less on schedule, so here he wishes to assure Kammler that the meeting of hygienic requirements was achievable. Our guess is that 100 showers never could have been installed, but it made an impressive figure to report to Kammler, by way of a copy of the telegram to Prüfer. It also appears that Bischoff seemed to waver on the location: 100 showers would make most sense in the largest morgue (Morgue #2, the "undressing room".) But in the end a smaller number of showers were installed in the smaller morgue. The modest number of showers actually installed could also be explained by the failure to exploit the high volume source of thermal energy that the incinerator would have provided.
The dual use of the crematoria for hygienic purposes may have included the installation of ad hoc disinfection stations.
We will discuss this speculative conclusion in more detail below: this is essentially one of Mattogno's arguments, based on two documents that mention disinfestation ovens (that is, hot air delousing ovens) in documents relating to Crematorium II. The problem with Mattogno's argument is that we know that these ovens, provided by Topf, were ultimately set up in the Central Sauna. However, the discussion of these ovens in Bischoff's report, along with the established precedent of ad hoc usage, suggests the dual use of Crematorium II as well, here as the site of ad hoc disinfection.
The gastight door with peephole on Morgue #1 of Crematorium III had no homicidal or disinfection purpose.
We know that the request for the "gas door" for Morgue #1 of Crematorium III goes back to the March 31, 1943 "gasdichte Türme" letter, weeks before Bischoff got the idea about installing showers there. So clearly this gastight door had nothing to do with the installation of the showers. Yet the door was still installed, even on a space with working showers, which would be either superfluous or incompatible with homicidal gassing or disinfection procedures.
This is a very controversial conclusion, but again we don't see how it can be avoided. To argue the homicidal interpretation for this door, one would also have to argue that the camp was pursuing homicidal and hygienic agendas in the basements of Crematorium III simultaneously, which is not believable. The disinfection thesis similarly fails with respect to the gastight door because there would be no disinfection of clothing taking place in a room equipped with showers.
In fact, the ordinary explanation for the juxtaposition of showers and a gastight door with peephole is that Morgue #1 became, in effect, an auxiliary gas shelter, which would be sealed off from poison gas in the event of an attack, and used to decontaminate poison gas victims afterwards. However, we emphasize that the order for the gastight door came before the installation of the showers. We also note again that the door is identical in all described particulars with an ordinary bomb shelter door. We conclude, therefore, that the door was meant to serve as the door to an auxiliary bomb shelter from the beginning.
The gastight door on Morgue #1 of Crematorium II likewise had no homicidal or disinfection purpose, since it was identical to the door on Morgue #1 of Crematorium III.
This is probably the most controversial conclusion, yet the letter of March 31, 1943 makes it clear that the doors were identical. Since the doors were identical, we have to consider why the doors were there in the first place. The disinfection thesis fails because to talk about a gastight door in this context implies that the entire space of Morgue #1 of Crematorium II would be filled with poison gas. Yet the area of the morgue was around 2,000 square feet, much too large for efficient gas dispersal, although we know that on occasion very large spaces could be used for that purpose. Therefore, the idea that a gastight door with peephole would have been installed in either morgue for disinfection purposes seems very unlikely.
The gas chamber thesis is in fact more likely, so long as we follow the line of reasoning that says that the Nazis were simply making things up as they went along. But again, the gas chamber thesis depends on the idea that the crematoria were designed solely for the pursuit of a killing program, although Bischoff's report makes it clear that camp hygiene took precedence over any alleged program of mass murder, even in the crematoria themselves.
The fact remains that a gastight door on a space with genuine showers would have no logical homicidal or disinfection purpose. Morgue #1 of Crematorium II was equipped with exactly the same kind of door. To argue a homicidal or disinfection interpretation for the door on Morgue #1 of Crematorium II, one would have to admit that the same kind of door was used for non-homicidal and non-disinfection purposes in Crematorium III. Yet this is the same thing as saying that the presence of a gastight door with peephole is irrelevant to either the gas chamber or disinfection theses. Such a door, however, is not irrelevant to the bomb shelter thesis.
"Sondermassnahme(n)" have nothing to do with extermination.
Our final conclusion is the least controversial since it is explicit in the document. Nevertheless, it does raise the point, argued elsewhere by Mattogno and even Pressac that references to "Sonderaktion" and other "Sonder-" words, in the time frame of 1942 and 1943 need not be construed in a homicidal sense as they usually are.
To summarize, we feel it is perfectly reasonable to conclude on the basis of the Bischoff Report that the showers cited as a criminal trace by Pressac were authentic showers, and that the "undressing rooms" were ordinary morgues used for corpse preparation. In that case, Morgues #1 would have been originally designed as storage spaces for corpses so prepared, and that in turn would explain the ventilation system in the storage morgue. Many other conclusions may follow, which we also feel are completely reasonable, but the only one we would insist on at this point is that the undressing rooms and the showers were not criminal traces.
As we have seen, this word has usually been interpreted as meaning "gas chamber" or "gassing cellar" by traditional historians. Arthur R. Butz has offered a number of explanations over the years to account for this word, of which "gas shelter" is the most recent. The word is unusual and is not found in any other documents. Hence, there is no real way of knowing what it means. In Technique, we tried to construct etymologically a definition of the term that would be consonant with gas protection, or more precisely the treatment of persons injured in a gas attack. However, we are not satisfied with that construction because we have found no trace of such usage in the civil defense literature. We have maintained since late 1997 that the more likely meaning of the word has something to do with disinfection, and will discuss our reasoning below. In the meantime, we have to recognize that this criminal trace, along with the gas detectors for cyanide residue, remain as rather forceful evidence in support of the gas chamber thesis.
So far we have found five examples of "Vergasungs-" type words that are roughly contemporaneous to the above usage and are focused on Auschwitz and the SS.
First, Mattogno found a reference, dated July 13, 1941, in which the delousing spaces of BW 5a and 5b are referred to as a "Vergasungsraum".
Second, a travel order to pick up Zyklon B from a factory in Dessau, dated July 26, 1942, references "Gas zur Vergasung des Lagers, zur Bekämpfung der aufgetretenen Seuche, zu holen." That is, picking up the gas for the fumigation of the camp in the struggle against vermin. Since the order comes at the height of the typhus and typhoid epidemics the meaning is clearly not homicidal.
Third, a widely distributed circular from Commandant Höß, dated August 12, 1942, discusses an accident with Zyklon B during the fumigation of a barracks. (Pressac, ATO, p. 201, Ref: PMO, no reference) The one page special order contains two references to "vergasen" words, in one place referring to all those who took part in the gassing "allen an Vergasungen Beteiligten" and refers to the spaces gassed as "vergasten Räume". A similar order, from Doctor Wirths, dated December 10, 1943, describes a similar incident, but here the words used are "Entwesung" and "entwest", which supports the argument that "vergasen" was used as a synonym not only for "begasen" (fumigate) but also "entwesen" (disinfect). (Source: 502-1-8, p. 25)
Fourth, the diary of Dr. Kremer, for September 1, 1942, contains the following entry: "Nachmittags bei der Vergasung eines Blocks mit Zyklon B gegen die Läuse." That is, "In the afternoon attended the fumigation of a barracks with Zyklon B against lice."
Fifth, a circular from Dr. Mrugowsky from the SS Hygiene Institute, dated May 13, 1943, reads as follows:
"In the future therefore, cyanide gas can only be used for the fumigation of barracks in the concentration camps."
[In Zukunft darf daher Blausäure nur noch zur Vergasung von Baracken in Konzentrationlägern verwendet werden.]
It is obvious that the ordinary meaning of "Vergasung-" type words at Auschwitz, among the SS, and during this time frame, is as a synonym for fumigation or disinfection. Therefore the most likely explanation for the word "Vergasungskeller" is a basement in which fumigation or disinfection is going to take place. We will discuss the matter in more detail below.
3.8. Gas detectors
One of Pressac's Criminal Traces concerned a telegram from the Central Construction Office to Topf & Sons, who built the cremation ovens and sold other equipment to the camp. The telegram was a single sentence request for 10 "gas detectors" for Crematorium II, and presumably, Crematorium III (the two sets of crematoria were frequently discussed in pairs). Keeping just to this telegram, the simplest conclusion is that this is a request for gas detectors for the ten cremation ovens for Crematoria II and III. The two main reasons for this conclusion would be because of the number of detectors requested, and because such gas detectors are common for detecting carbon monoxide as evidence of incomplete combustion. However, in a later book, Pressac presented a letter from the Moscow archives, dated March 3, 1943, from Topf to the Central Construction Office, indicating that the gas detectors were for cyanide gas residues. In Technique, we showed that there was a real threat of aerial cyanide gas attack, so in terms of our overall thesis there was no need to pursue the matter.
But there have been a number of interpretations. Butz, for example, considers the document authentic, involving the testing for cyanide gases that might have been generated in the incinerator that was attached to the cremation ovens. Mattogno, on the other hand, considers the document a forgery or falsification, and points out many problems with the document.
In spite of revisionist attempts to refute this document, we must admit that on the surface the Topf letter to the Construction Office has a sinister connotation. The problem is that the letter doesn't really fit the gas chamber thesis. In the first place, the request was made after Crematorium II was built. Second, there is no explanation for how 10 such detectors would have functioned in the gas chambers. Third, there is no evidence of their delivery or use, and fourth, there is no evidence that the devices were ever found. No causal chain is ever offered to account for the urgent request, and the ultimate failure of that request.
On the other hand, we consider the Mattogno explanation weak, because there is no causal chain to accompany the claim of forgery or falsification. In other words, if a document is forged, common sense dictates that there be a reason for the forgery. To say that such a document is altered, which isn't explicit in any case, tells us nothing. In order to make the argument for falsification stick, one has to propound a scenario under which it was altered, and why. For example, if the document was used in a judicial proceeding against Kurt Prüfer, that might set us on the proper trail. But Mattogno offers no evidence for this.
Noting the ambiguity of this trace, we leave it aside for now, observing only that superficially it tends to support the gas chamber thesis as opposed to either the disinfection or bomb shelter theses.
In reconsidering the Criminal Traces we have found no reason to abandon a civil defense explanation for most of them. Some, for example, the showers, and the undressing rooms, have a completely neutral explanation and the showers are clearly linked to hygiene, thematic to the disinfection thesis. A few of the more problematic traces, i.e., the Vergasungskeller and the gas detectors have no clear explanation under any thesis, but we are now inclined to think that they too have something to do with disinfection. In the next section of our study we review the disinfection thesis overall.
Part Four: A Disinfection Chronology
For the past twenty years the standard antithesis to the gas chamber explanation for the gastight fixtures of the crematoria has been the disinfection thesis. The thesis has been argued in a number of ways, but it has not succeeded in taking into account the gastight doors with peepholes or the gastight shutters of Crematoria IV and V except in terms of full-room disinfection gassings. As we have already noted, the types of gastight doors normally used for disinfection have nothing in common with the gastight doors found at Auschwitz, most of which were constructed in accordance with civil defense guidelines and were not in a technical sense gastight.
However, the disinfection thesis has its adherents; and is contending, as it were, over the same spaces as the bomb shelter and gas chamber theses and therefore deserves attention. Furthermore, the Bischoff Report of May 16, 1943 strongly supports the disinfection thesis in a general way without at the same time refuting the civil defense interpretation of the gastight doors.
Over the past several years a number of revisionists have obtained documents from the Moscow Archives which touch on issues related to disinfection. We would like to list a number of these below, in order to offer a coherent possible narrative to account for all of the documents, including the Bischoff Report cited above. Afterwards, we will try to see how the gas chamber thesis can be made to fit the same documents. Such a procedure will not only be enlightening but will help clarify the differences among the various theses concerning the gastight fixtures of the Birkenau crematoria.
The only background we need to keep in mind is that in the summer of 1942 typhus broke out in Auschwitz Birkenau, claiming the lives of several thousand. At the same time, thousands more were deported to the camp, and many of these also died. The crematorium at the base camp (Crematorium I) broke down for two months in this period. The bodies of those who died, perhaps tens of thousands, were buried in large pits to the west of the future Birkenau crematoria sites and began to contaminate the water supply of the whole camp, increasing the death toll. In response, plans were made to build four crematoria, a Central Sauna that would be able to accommodate an entire transport of arrivals, a sewage treatment plant, and a drainage system for the camp.
4.2. Documents On Disinfection
July 9, 1942, Letter from Berninghause About Gastight Doors for Delousing Chambers (Nowak, et al., ZBL 502-1- )
This letter, originally cited by Nowak in his study of gastight doors, makes it clear that the normal design of gastight doors for disinfection purposes has nothing to do with the kinds of gastight doors with peepholes found at Auschwitz. Nowak also agrees with us that the design of the gastight doors at Auschwitz derived from makeshift civil air defense construction patterns.
August 18, 1942, Memorandum from Ertl (Pressac, ATO, p. 204f, Ref: PMO, BW 30/27)
The two page document describes a visit by Prüfer of Topf & Sons concerning the installation of ovens for Crematoria II or III. In addition, it discusses installing some furnaces "bei den 'Badeanstalten für Sonderaktionen'", usually translated as, "near the baths for special purposes".
The reference is clearly ambiguous, since there are at least two different homicidal explanations for the document. The first, offered by the Soviets in their Special Commission Report on Auschwitz (USSR-08), was that the document concerns setting up the ovens at the baths, which were understood to be gas chambers. The current interpretation, offered by Pressac and van Pelt, is that the document concerns the construction of Crematorium IV near (and thus "") the baths, understood to mean the undocumented provisional gas chambers of Bunkers 1 and 2. The problem with the latter interpretation is that the alleged site of Bunker 2 is nowhere near Crematorium IV, but is instead about 1,000 meters away, and Bunker 1 is no closer. On the other hand, the Central Sauna, already planned at this time, and which really was a bath establishment, was indeed built "bei" Crematorium IV, about 100 meters away.
The next point concerns what "Sonderaktion" means. "Aktion" in German can mean an "action" in the sense of a special task, like executions, it can also mean an "operation" in the sense of a task or procedure, like the plunder operation "Aktion Reinhardt", it can further mean movement, as in "Aktion Mutter und Kind", a wartime operation that involved moving German women and children away from the cities to escape allied bombing raids.
Most of the time "Sonderaktion" in an Auschwitz context means "transport operations", that is, the sorting of incoming transports of prisoners. In a sense, both sides admit that meaning, with the exception that the traditional narrative holds that incoming transports were uniformly exterminated with poison gas. In this way, they then argue that "Sonderaktion" always means extermination.
The problem with this interpretation is that, at this time, most transports were admitted to Auschwitz almost in their entirety, as we know from the Dutch transports in August, 1942. Even though many of these deportees died, they were just as obviously not being killed on arrival, and were being registered in the camp. That is why so many deaths — some 30,000 in all — would in turn be listed in the Death Books in the fall of 1942.
To be sure, sometimes the term "special actions" was used euphemistically for executions. But that was not the sole meaning, as we will see below.
October 13, 1942 Letter from Bischoff About Constructions (Pressac, ATO, p. 197ff)
The document makes a reference to the need to build the crematoria as a result of the "Sonderaktionen" (Special Actions). The usual interpretation is that "special actions" means gas exterminations, and that is why the crematoria were being built. However, the alternative, that the crematoria were being built as a result of the epidemics aggravated by the arrival of tens of thousands of deportees in transports, is also valid. In our opinion, Bischoff was being euphemistic in this letter, that is, in his formulation he was attempting to explain that the crematoria were being built as a result of the terrific death toll resulting from the simultaneous epidemics and mass arrivals, but wished not to be explicit about the epidemics because it reflected poorly on the camp's administration.
Again, we will see that a neutral interpretation of "Sonderaktion" is completely justified.
November 13, 1942 Gastight Doors for BW 5 a/b (Mattogno Response to Crowell, #2, Ref: ZBL 502-1-)
We only record this document because of its connection to another reference to special doors, in January 1943. In one of his responses to our work, Mattogno cited this document by way of arguing that other showers had been fitted with gastight doors. However, the explanation for this could still be fitted into a civil defense context without difficulty.
November 27, 1942 A Reference to "Sonderkeller" ("Machinery of Mass Murder at Auschwitz", Pressac & van Pelt, in Gutman, eds. Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, p. 223)
On this date there was an attempt to begin installation of the ventilation system in one of the morgues of Crematorium II, which implies that at least one of the morgues was complete at this time, a few months ahead of the entire structure. Wolter, one of Bischoff's assistants, wrote this note about the attempt to install the ventilation. Another noteworthy point about this document is that, while it concerns Auschwitz, it appears to be part of a collection of papers independent from the files of the Central Construction Office.
It is assumed that the Sonderkeller or "special cellar" is Morgue #1 of Crematorium II. However the document doesn't tell us why it was special. Ultimately, the relevance of this document depends on how we interpret "Sonder-" words. A problem for the traditional interpretation is that there are ground-level photos of Crematorium II taken in this time frame show no holes or other structures on the snow covered roof of Morgue #1, which in turn means that the morgue was complete without any holes.
December 4, 1942 Dr. Wirths Discusses Delousing Stations (Nowak, Ref: ZBL, 502-1-332, p.117ff)
Dr. Wirths, who was the camp doctor at Auschwitz, had a conversation with a local leader about typhus, and wrote a report about it. He mentioned the existence of three large disinfection and bathing installations, two for the prisoners and one for the SS. The capacity of these facilities was about 3-4,000 persons per day. Zyklon B disinfection had been completely done away with, according to Dr. Wirths, because it was not 100% effective.
It is true that Zyklon B would not be 100% effective, since the substance only killed bugs, it could not destroy bacteria. On the other hand, hot air or steam were much more effective, although still not completely effective. Concerning the three facilities Dr. Wirths mentions, Nowak assumes that BW 5a and 5b are meant for the prisoners, the location of the SS delousing and disinfection station is not specified.
December 18, 1942 Sonderaktion for Workers (Pressac, ATO, 210, Ref: PMO BW 30/27)
This is a single page telex marked "Secret!" (Geheim!) sent from Bischoff to General Kammler to tell him that work on the crematoria was interrupted several times in December due to delousing and disinfection, and that the Gestapo carried out a Special Action (Sonderaktion) among the civilian workers.
It is not exactly clear what the Gestapo did with the civilian workers, but it is conceded that no one was killed, let alone gassed; indeed, they went on Christmas holiday immediately thereafter. Hence, the main import of this document is that, first, the threat of epidemics was continuous, and second, Sonder- words need not have a homicidal meaning.
December 31, 1942 Request for the Construction of a Provisional Laundry (Ref: 502-1-83, p. 99)
A draft copy of a two page letter, referenced to a Central Construction Office order of November 5, 1942, from the WVHA to the Central Construction Office. The relevance of this order is simply further evidence of the need to provide more facilities for delousing and disinfection. This is also another document that has Kirschneck's name written at the top of the page.
January 13, 1943 Doors for Sondermassnahmen (Mattogno/SB, Ref: PMO, BW 30/34 p. 78; also Pressac, ATO, p. 213, Ref: Höß Trial Annex)
This is a letter written by Bischoff to the German Armaments Works (Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke = DAW), the main supplier of gastight doors and many other fixtures in the camp. We recall that the DAW was also the recipient of the "gasdichte Türme" letter of March 31, 1943, and was the main supplier of the Criminal Traces fixtures.
The letter registers a complaint about the non-fulfillment of the carpentry jobs requested and refers to some doors ordered on October 26, 1942, which are urgently needed for Crematorium II for "carrying out special measures" (Durchführung der Sondermassnahmen). The order from October 26, 1942 has so far not yet surfaced.
Pressac considers this a reference to gas chamber doors, Mattogno considers it a reference to the cremation of dead bodies. Pressac's view hinges on the interpretation of the word Sondermassnahmen, which is utterly arbitrary given the context provided by the other documents in which Sondermassnahmen is used in a hygienic sense. On the other hand, Mattogno's interpretation makes no sense, since doors are not necessary for cremation to take place. Our best guess is that the doors originally requested were airtight doors that would seal off the basement spaces for hygienic purposes and possibly disinfection purposes. However, it is also clear that such doors would be replaced within a few weeks by gastight doors with peepholes, according to our interpretation so that the basements could serve an auxiliary function as bomb shelters and gas shelters.
January 29, 1943 The "Vergasungskeller" Letter (Pressac, ATO, p. 432; Czech, Auschwitz Chronicle, p. 317)
This is the famous letter from Bischoff to General Kammler, which, towards the end of the first paragraph, describes how the formwork for the reinforced concrete roof of "the morgue" cannot be removed, but that there is no problem, because "the gassing cellar" can be used "for that purpose" which we assume to mean storing bodies.
Van Pelt (Pelt Report, p. 200, 237) has an unusual interpretation of the document. Basing his view on the fact that one of the copies has building leader Kirschneck's name written on top, and that the word "Vergasungskeller" is underlined, van Pelt concluded that Kirschneck wrote this letter, which was to go from Bischoff to Kammler, and then had his error of using "forbidden words" pointed out to him by Bischoff. This is a difficult interpretation to sustain. The letter went from Bischoff to Kammler, therefore, if an error was discovered it first would have had to go from Kammler back to Bischoff. Second, Bischoff was the signatory, so if he saw the error on signing the letter, it would not have gone out (the original of the letter appears to be missing.) Third, Kirschneck is on the distribution list for the letter, so he would have received a copy in any case. The most likely explanation is that the underlined copy of the letter is simply Kirschneck's copy, with a notation specifying the Vergasungskeller as the place to use in lieu of the morgue for the time being. One thing is certain: there is nothing unusual about seeing Kirschneck's name on the top of documents.
In terms of the overall theme pursued here, and bearing in mind the documented use of "vergasen" words, it seems obvious that the Morgue #1 was envisioned for some kind of special use, but this use is still not clear from the documents. If we interpret "Vergasung" in its normal sense then it means that there was an intention to use Morgue #1 for disinfection, or it was already being used in that manner.
January 29, 1943 The Swoboda Letter (van Pelt Report, p. 204, Ref: ZBL 502-1-26)
Discovered by van Pelt, and first discussed in a television broadcast several years ago, this single page memorandum describes a meeting of an SS officer Swoboda with an electrician Tomitschek concerning the electrical supply of Crematorium II. It contains the sentence:
This operation can only involve a limited use of the available machines (whereby is made possible burning with simultaneous Special Treatment), because the main electricity supply to the crematorium is not capable to carry its power consumption.
[Diese Inbetriebsetzung kann sich jedoch nur auf beschränkten Gebrauch der vorhandenen Maschinen erstrecken (wobei eine Verbrennung mit gleichzeitiger Sonderbehandlung möglich gemacht wird), da die zum Krematorium führende Zuleitung für dessen Leistungsverbrauch zu schwach ist.]
The key idea concerns "cremation with simultaneous special treatment" which means to van Pelt that this is a discussion of operating the cremation ovens while gassings are taking place below in Morgue #1. Evidently, the idea is that the fans to ventilate the gas chambers would take up electricity needed to operate the blowers for the cremation ovens. Van Pelt considers the homicidal meaning "unequivocal", but there have been several revisionist responses, including from Faurisson and Mattogno.
Since the document clearly concerns the electrical supply, it should be possible to get an idea of what is meant by "Sonderbehandlung", recognizing that, because of the Bischoff Report of May 16, 1943 and other documents, it is not possible to simply assume a homicidal meaning for "Sonder-" type words. Mattogno has been most successful in listing the electrical appliances, consisting mostly of fans, in the building at that time. But Mattogno also rather arbitrarily insists that "Sonderbehandlung" has to do with the handling of the dead.
Neither of these explanations strike us as particularly strong. Van Pelt's interpretation really rests on the translation of the word "Sonderbehandlung": otherwise his approach doesn't really cohere; since the ventilation of the gas chamber would only take twenty minutes (according to his eyewitnesses), and that seems a negligible delay for the cremation ovens. Furthermore, it would require something like a day and a half to cremate the victims of a mass gassing (using van Pelt's assumed cremation rates), and twenty minutes in that time-scale is meaningless. Moreover, the document does not say that simultaneous use is impossible, only that it would be limited. Mattogno holds, on the other hand, that the special treatment concerns people who are already dead, that is, the bodies stored in the morgues, but obviously such a definition of "handling" would be largely static.
A more neutral interpretation would hold that the full use of the electrical system to power the fans for the cremation ovens would preclude extensive use of the basements for whatever purpose, because the ventilation system would be compromised.
February 8, 1943 Order of the Day (2/43) from Commandant Höß (Mattogno/GP, PMO D-Aul-1, p. 46)
The order describes the total camp quarantine as decreed by General Glücks of the WVHA, due to the appearance of typhus cases. Such a datum does not have much relevance to the gas chamber thesis, but, from a disinfection point of view, it simply underlines the need for delousing and disinfection in the camp.
February 8, 1943 Provisional Laundry and Krema II (Pressac, ATO, 350, Ref: PMO, BW 30/34, p. 92)
The same day as the camp was placed under quarantine, the German Armaments Factory (DAW) sent a note to the Central Construction Office concerning materials ordered on February 5 and 6. Concerning orders 69, 72, and 73, the memo describes the delivery of several doors and windows for the "Provisorische Wäscherei K.L. Auschwitz" (temporary laundry) as well as two windows for Krematorium II. The document has Kirschneck's name scribbled on the top.
Pressac quoted this letter merely to reference the role played in the construction of the crematoria by the German Armaments Factory, and does not comment further. Nor have we been successful in discovering any other explanations for this document: the pages of the Krakow protocols do not include these numbers.
What we find striking in this note is that there is a discussion of a provisional laundry, that is, a space where delousing and disinfection would take place, that is going to be equipped with basement windows (5 Stück Kellerfenster), when few such buildings were being constructed at Auschwitz aside from the large crematoria at Birkenau. Arguing the disinfection thesis, what suggests itself is that this document is in fact a reference to Crematorium II throughout, and that the provisional laundry represents the basement spaces of the crematorium. However, this is highly speculative, and the provisional laundry described is probably some other building, in some other location. At the very least, however, the document does set the precedent for establishing delousing and disinfection facilities in basements.
February 11, 1943 An Inspection of the Hygiene Facilities (Nowak/Rademacher)
On February 2, 1943, there was an inspection of the disinfection and bathing facilities at Auschwitz by an Eirenschmalz of the Department C VI of the WVHA. This would have been a few days after the Vergasungskeller letter. A report of the inspection was drawn up for General Kammler on February 11, with a carbon copy to be sent to the Central Construction Office.
The document describes how gassing apparatuses (Apparate) originally meant for cyanide are now being used as hot air disinfection chambers (Heissluftapparate). The inspection notes the wide disparity in temperatures required, 30 C for cyanide, up to 95 C for hot air, and says that none of the wrought-iron cyanide gas apparatuses should be used for hot air delousing.
The document gives instructions on how to obtain the appropriate apparatuses for hot air delousing, and gives a three week delivery time. It also indicates that henceforth neither coal nor coke is supposed to be used for the over-worked saunas, but only wood.
The document was originally employed by Nowak to argue that there was a general embargo on using Zyklon B for delousing clothing at this time, and this accords with Dr. Wirths' misgivings, noted above. However, what we find most interesting is the reference to the improper use of cyanide gas cubicles for hot air delousing, apparently using coal or coke.
We can presume, based on other correspondence, that the inspection notice could have been received by the Central Construction Office within a couple of days, that is, by February 13, 1943. However, the filing and stamping on this document are peculiar: first, these markings appear at the bottom of the third and final page, rather than the upper right corner of the first page. Second, the routing stamp carries the date "26 Feb 1943."
February 12, 1943 Bischoff Informs Kammler About Quarantine (Mattogno/GP, 502-1-332, p. 108)
The letter to Kammler informs him of the quarantine conditions, and indicates that all prisoners have to be disinfected, and that this is slowing down construction, again. In other words, the day after the Eirenschmalz inspection report is written, Bischoff writes to Kammler to inform him of the quarantine conditions in the camp.
February 13, 1943 Bischoff Writes to Eirenschmalz About Quarantine (Mattogno, GP, 502-1-28, p. 221)
The next day, possibly in receipt of Eirenschmalz' inspection report, Bischoff now informs him of the quarantine conditions.
February 14, 1943 Order of the Day from Commandant Höß (Mattogno/GP, PMO D-Aul-1, p.48/9)
Still another document pointing to the need for disinfection, this time stressing that incoming transports have to be disinfected carefully.
February 17, 1943: A Reference to "Gaskeller" at Topf & Sons
The reference to this document comes from an article entitled "Une critique sur le fond" that appeared in the French periodical L'Autre Histoire, no. 6, October 16, 1996, p. 9-14.
The document is described as a note from Sander of Topf & Sons relating a telephone conversation with Karl Schultze, the engineer in charge of ventilation at Topf who had just returned from Auschwitz. There is a reference to the missing ventilation system for the "Gaskeller".
The document follows on the Vergasungskeller letter. The gas chamber interpretation would of course consider this further proof of the intended use of Morgue #1 of Crematorium II for gassing people. However, a "Gaskeller" is a "Gasschutzkeller", or gas protection cellar, that is, a kind of bomb shelter. It would be very useful to have a copy of this document available.
From a disinfection point of view, this document simply confirms the various evidence that some kind of disinfection is planned or is being carried out in Morgue #1 of Crematorium II.
February 18, 1943 Bischoff to Kammler, Disinfection Complete, Work Continues (Mattogno/GP, 502-1-332, p. 106)
Another letter from Bischoff to Kammler, assuring Kammler that the delousing of the prisoners demanded by the quarantine was completed on February 16, 1943, and that construction work continues.
February 25, 1943 Dr. Wirths Insists More Delousing Needed (Mattogno/GP, 502-1-68, 115f)
Since this correspondence originating in Auschwitz, we will assume that Bischoff knew about this letter the same day it was written.
This is a letter from Dr. Wirths to Amt D III of the WVHA, which was the medical sanitation office informing them of the need for a full-scale delousing of the camp along with a three week quarantine. It is worth noting that Amt D III would be the department to contact if there was any need for Zyklon B, or any peripheral materials.
February 26, 1943 Central Construction Office Telegram to Prüfer — Gas Detectors (Pressac)
The day after Dr. Wirths sent off his recommendations to the WVHA, and the same day that the Inpection Report of February 11, 1943, was stamped at the Central Construction Office, a brief telegram was sent to Topf & Sons at 6:20 PM, requesting ten "gas detectors." The request did not come from Bischoff but we assume that he delegated the task to his subordinates.
A gas chamber explanation is typical, but, as we have seen, it has some problems. A possible disinfection interpretation is that Bischoff had tabled the February 11 Eirenschmalz inspection report and had requested the gas detectors from Topf & Sons informally, probably by the time of the Sander note of February 17. A possible scenario would have been to employ the cyanide gas cubicles referenced in the inspection report of February 11 using the proper medium. The lack of cyanide gas testers for the cubicles could partly explain their improper use prior to this time. The request to Topf for the detectors may have reflected Bischoff's confidence in Prüfer as a problem solver and go-between in obtaining hard to find materials. Dr. Wirths' letter from the previous day, sure to bounce back to Kammler and then to Bischoff, probably was the decisive factor in sending the telegram.
March 3, 1943 Prüfer Letter to Bischoff — No Cyanide Detectors (Pressac/van Pelt) [received March 5]
We note that the letter was mailed and filed within two days, which gives us another benchmark for correspondence.
Prüfer wrote back to Bischoff claiming that he had been unable to find any cyanide gas detectors, although he had been looking for two weeks. (Two weeks from March 3 would be February 17 or thereabouts, i.e., the time of the Sander note in the Topf archives.) Our best guess is that Bischoff finally gave up on the idea of using cyanide gas in the basement of Morgue #1 of Crematorium II at this time, because of what follows.
March 6, 1943 Bischoff Letter to Prüfer, Request to Pre-Heat Morgue #1 (Pressac, ATO, p. 375)
The next day, Bischoff wrote to Topf & Sons and requested the forced draft installations, which, according to the letter, had been previously discussed. These forced draft installations would draw off the hot air from the crematoria, which would then be sent down to Morgue #1.
Pressac considered this document a Criminal Trace, because the "warm" air would raise the temperature of the Morgue, facilitating the use of Zyklon B. However, as will be noted below, there doesn't seem to be any method indicated for regulating the hot exhaust flow.
On the other hand, if we look at this document as evidence merely of heating a morgue for ordinary temperature control purposes, that is, to keep it above freezing, then the document can be explained in a variety of ways. However, there is a good reason why such an interpretation is questionable.
Week of March 11, 1943
Pressac assumes that during this time Messing's work in the basements of Crematorium II was related to cyanide gas fittings. However, given the known request for the forced draft hot air blowers, it seems even more likely that Messing was simply hooking up the various ductwork to support them.
March 25, 1943 Agreement to Remove Morgue #1 Hot Air Supply
Less than three weeks after Bischoff had assented to Prüfer's plan to use the heat from the cremation ovens to send down to Morgue #1, the arrangement was removed. At the same time the three forced draft installations were also removed. It was also decided to replace the wooden air extractor fan for Morgue #1 with an iron one.
What had happened? The language of the memo is rather terse, but it appears that high temperatures caused damage to the forced draft installations, and possibly even a fire. Perhaps even the wooden blower for Morgue #1 caught fire. In any case, we are talking about very high temperatures, far higher than necessary to heat a morgue for either bomb shelter, gas chamber, or even normal mortuary purposes. On the other hand, if the attempt at "pre-heating" represented yet another attempt to use Morgue #1 for disinfection purposes, the siphoning of the hot air from the ovens would make some sense.
March 31, 1943 "Gastight Towers" and Ten Cubic Meters of Wood
The gasdichte Türme letter has an interesting closing sentence, requesting the delivery of ten cubic meters of wood, in the context of a letter on crematoria fittings. In the context of the Eirenschmalz inspection report, and the clear concerns over disinfection, we now consider this a request for wood to be used in hot air disinfection or for showers.
April 1, 1943 Dr. Wirths to Bischoff — Renewed Threat of Epidemics (Matt/C1) 502-1-332, p.222
Another letter from Dr. Wirths to Bischoff, repeating that the threat of epidemics makes another thorough delousing necessary.
April 13, 1943 List Entry for Two Topf Hot Air Ovens (Entwesungsöfen) (Mattogno/C1) PMO 30/34, p. 47
A reference to two hot air disinfection ovens, in the Topf records, and with reference to Crematorium II. This would be consistent with following the recommendation of the Eirenschmalz inspection report, to obtain the proper disinfection ovens for hot air delousing and disinfection. The document also suggests yet another attempt at implementing ad hoc disinfection procedures in Crematorium II.
April 18, 1943 Dr. Wirths Once More Warns About Epidemics (Nowak) ZBL 502-1-332 p. 219
In a letter to the Commandant, Dr. Wirths once more warns about the danger of epidemics, this time with reference to the poor drainage system of the camp.
May 7, 1943 Dr. Wirths and Bischoff Meet With Kammler (Nowak) ZBL 502-1-233 pp. 33-38
This is a memorandum with describes General Kammler's visit to Auschwitz on this date, apparently to discuss the competing interests of Bischoff and Dr. Wirths. Kammler agreed with Dr. Wirths recommendations for more delousing and disinfection spaces, and gave Bischoff until May 15 to come up with recommendations.
May 9, 1943 Bischoff's Memo on the May 7, 1943 Meeting (Mattogno/C1) 502-1-233, p. 37
This memorandum is Bischoff's version of the meeting on May 7, 1943. Dr. Wirths had indicated that he wanted 10 new delousing and disinfection establishments with baths to carry out a complete disinfection of the camp.
May 16, 1943 Bischoff Report on Special Measures Concerning Hygiene
This the Bischoff Report discussed in Section 3, concerning, among other things, the installation of showers in the basement of Crematorium III. This is a belated response to the Kammler request of May 7, noted above.
May 28, 1943 Dr. Wirths Requests Six Disinfection Ovens (Nowak) ZBL 502-1-332 p. 28
The document describes a request by Dr. Wirths for six disinfection ovens, a request that follows on the previous meetings. The location of where the ovens were to be set up is not specified by Nowak, who utilized the document.
June 4, 1943 Bischoff Letter to the WVHA, "Sondermassnahmen" (Nowak) ZBL 502-1-149 p. 135 The document is a backwards reference to the implementation of the special measures discussed in the report of May 16, 1943. It simply goes to the point that the measures were being implemented.
June 6, 1943, Topf Drawing of Boiler Installation (M/C1) ZBL 502-1-336 np
Cited by Mattogno, the document is a drawing from Topf describing the attempt to setup a boiler in the incinerators of both Crematoria II and III.
June, 1943, Bischoff Fragebogen (M/C1) ZBL 502-1-312, p. 8
Also cited by Mattogno, the document is a questionnaire, filled out by Bischoff, apparently in June or later, which asks whether the exhaust gases from the crematoria were utilized. Answering in the negative, Bischoff then lists as the aim of such use: "für Badeanlagen im Krema. II und III"
Mattogno assumes that the questionnaire was filled out in June, that is, after a failure of the plan. But which plan? The use of the exhaust gases from the crematoria is not the same as the plan to use the exhaust from the incinerator. It may be that the forced draft installations were intended to heat water, as well as provide dry heat for disinfection. It may be that by June of 1943, both Crematoria II and III supported a modest battery of showers. There are still too many gaps in the documentation. However, one thing is certain: there was an attempt to use both crematoria for hygienic purposes. This contradicts the gas chamber thesis.
4.3. Analysis of Disinfection Interpretation
Attempting to put these pieces together in a manner that supports the disinfection thesis, we want to point out that it is plain that the camp was under the continuous threat of typhus outbreaks throughout this period. The construction of the crematoria could be seen as related to this, as part of the attempt to control the hygienic conditions of the camp, even if we were to insist that the structures were used for other purposes later.
There are essentially four actors in this exchange of documents: General Kammler, who was the man in charge of construction projects for the WVHA, Karl Bischoff, who was responsible for getting these projects done at Auschwitz, Kurt Prüfer, who was Bischoff's main business contact, and Dr. Wirths, who was the camp doctor.
Bischoff's main motivation was to get the crematoria built, for whatever reason, and to do so as quickly as possible, because he had other construction projects beckoning, including the construction of the Central Sauna. However, it appears that from December 1942 the quarantines and the demands to carry out thorough delousing and disinfection of the camp inmates were seriously interfering with the construction schedule.
This is one of the backgrounds to the plans emerging around this time to use the basements of the crematoria for alternate purposes. It could explain the reference to Sonderkeller in November 1942. Our guess is that there was an intention, however vague, to use one of the morgues as a Zyklon B delousing station and for that purpose cyanide gas cubicles were obtained. It appears logical that they would have been set up in Morgue #1 of Crematorium II, but perhaps they were set up in the basement of the provisional Wäscherei, referenced on both December 28, 1942 and February 8, 1943. The precise location of this structure is not known, but it may have been referred to under the same rubric as Crematorium II, if, for example, its construction used the same workforce. At any rate, we do know that some cyanide cubicles were improperly used as hot air delousing chambers at this time.
The projected alternative use of Morgue #1 of Crematorium II would also explain the references to "Gaskeller" and "Vergasungskeller" at the end of January. In the case of Sander, at Topf, a "Gaskeller" would be a colloquialism for a space where gassings of some kind would take place. On the other hand, Bischoff never would have used such a word in correspondence with Kammler. As ex-Luftwaffe officers, they both would have known that a "Gaskeller" was a "Gasschutzkeller": therefore, to convey the same idea as Sander, Bischoff created a new word.
When Eirenschmalz pointed out the improper use of the cyanide cubicles in February, Bischoff attempted to obtain cyanide gas detectors. That much is certain. Bischoff went to Prüfer, partly because he was Bischoff's main business contact, but also because to go through proper channels would have taken a long time. It is also possible that Bischoff wanted to avoid going through Berlin, where both Eirenschmalz' report, and Dr. Wirths' latest complaint, were sent. Incidentally, we should notice that Bischoff's responsibilities were expanding. He was not only being held responsible for constructing buildings on time, but also for the proper implementation of hygienic measures, that is, in providing acceptable delousing and disinfection spaces on request. This is a somewhat surprising conclusion, but one that is borne out by the report of May 16, 1943. Our guess is that these dual responsibilities were the penalty he paid for having so much trouble constructing the crematoria, while neglecting the construction of the Central Sauna.
After the plan to obtain proper cyanide detectors fell through, at the beginning of March, the next day Bischoff followed a suggestion from Prüfer to use the hot air (or "warm air") from the cremation ovens in Morgue #1. The temperatures generated were clearly too high for keeping a morgue above freezing or for raising the temperature for cyanide dispersal: this is evident from what happened next. Apparently, there was a fire and the forced draft mechanisms were damaged, so the entire "Warmluftzuführungsanlage" was removed. By the end of March, Bischoff was requesting lumber: we surmise that he was now back at square one, gathering wood to fuel primitive and possibly even improperly utilized disinfection ovens.
The finale came in early May, when Kammler came to the camp, no doubt wondering what was wrong with his construction schedules. At that time, Bischoff asked that he be allowed to finish his crematoria, apparently emphasizing the need to complete one thing at a time. On the other hand, Dr. Wirths requested that delousing and bathing facilities be established in no less than 10 locations — which may have included all the crematoria — for purposes of camp hygiene. The Bischoff memorandum of the meeting, supplemented by the later material, makes it clear that Dr. Wirths won the argument: hygiene and disease prevention came before everything else.
We want to stress that the above is a reconstruction on the basis of the documents, and some of the presentation, particularly concerning what appears to have been a series of failed disinfection experiments in the "Vergasungskeller" — hot air, cyanide, hot air exhaust — is speculative. Nevertheless, the scenario seems to fit the available data better than the other disinfection alternatives. We do not think it likely that there was ever a plan to employ cyanide gas for full-room disinfection of garments in the rooms of any of the crematoria, because of the associated dangers.
On the other hand, there are elements from the above series of documents that are much less arguable. One is the overriding concern about the spread of disease. Another is the constant demand for more delousing and disinfection spaces. A third concerns Bischoff's predictable reactions to work stoppages and complaints about the hygienic conditions, involving either requests for materials that fit a disinfection model or letters to Kammler in Berlin, assuring him that everything was proceeding on schedule.
It is precisely the less arguable elements in most of these documents that tends to subvert the gas chamber interpretation of some of these documents. Bearing in mind the concern for the spread of disease, there would be no easy explanation for creating more dead bodies and therefore increasing the threat of disease, which would be the inevitable result of mass gassing. Bearing in mind that the available space for delousing and disinfection was at a premium, it would be hard to justify allocating precious space for the purposes of mass gassing. It would be especially hard to understand if there were already two bunkers supposedly being used for the task of mass gassing, as the oral tradition maintains.
When we consider that Crematoria IV and V, as well as Crematoria III at least from May, were all probably equipped with washing facilities of some kind, it would make no sense to appropriate such spaces for mass gassing while the camp doctor was clamoring for more showers. Nor would it make much sense to allocate such space in Crematorium II, considering that its cremation ovens were down during much of this period.
On the whole, a gas chamber explanation for two or three of these documents is contradicted by the overall thrust of all of them, which is clearly concerned with crematoria completion and improving hygienic conditions. There is no hint in any of the other documents that a third agenda — mass gassing — was even being considered. Even the documents that seem to support the gas chamber thesis tend to founder. Cyanide gas detectors may be viewed in the context of mass gassing, yes, but the whole scenario concerning the request is not explained: and, of course, they never arrived.
Similarly, the "pre-heating" may have some connection to warming the morgue to assist cyanide gas dispersal, but that is difficult to square with the fact that the system was almost immediately removed. Nor can the high temperatures involved in such "pre-heating" be easily explained. If these two elements are considered indicative of mass gassing, then it would appear that mass gassing was a total failure. In the end, the gas chamber thesis is left with eyewitness testimony and two word stems "Sonder-" and "Vergasung-" both of which, in context, turn out to be much more ambiguous than they appear in traditional approaches.
In retrospect, we conclude that the most likely explanation for all of the documents cited is that there were attempts to use the spaces provided by the crematoria for ad hoc delousing and disinfection, as a kind of compromise solution until the Central Sauna could be built. Yet the compromises brought about by the competition of the dual imperatives of crematoria construction and camp hygiene frustrated the progress of construction. Hence the gas chamber thesis appears even less likely, because it presumes an imperative that is never mentioned in the documents, and for which there appears to have been neither time nor space available.
The unsuitability of the gas chamber thesis does not mean that the bomb shelter thesis is similarly unsuitable. The reason is simple. The adaptation of hygienic spaces, particularly those underground, for alternative civil air defense use would have required only some gastight fixtures such as doors and window shutters. Since these materials were created anyway, and since they are not necessary in a disinfection model, we conclude that the crematoria were in effect alternate bomb and gas shelters from this time.
Returning to the disinfection thesis overall, we cannot help but have some sympathy for Karl Bischoff in reviewing these documents. He was being asked to do several complicated tasks simultaneously. Unable to build the Sauna because of the priority of crematoria construction, Bischoff ended up having to allocate crematoria spaces to serve essentially Sauna purposes. Meanwhile, Bischoff's construction schedule was constantly interrupted by work stoppages brought on by sporadic typhus outbreaks, unhygienic conditions, and the (highly professional) interference of the camp doctor. In the end, it would seem, Bischoff was left with four crematoria, two of which broke down almost immediately, at least three methods of disinfection, all of which failed, and showers that failed to provide hot water. Last but not least, he was left with auxiliary bomb shelters that failed to meet the expectations of the experts.
Part Five: Critics of the Bomb Shelter Thesis
There are probably four people who know more about the Auschwitz camp than anyone else: the current curator of the Auschwitz museum, Frantiszek Piper, the Frenchman, Jean Claude Pressac, the Italian revisionist, Carlo Mattogno, and Robert Jan van Pelt. We have been frankly privileged to be reviewed by the latter two authorities. However, we regret to say that while they have done us some honor by studying our views, they have treated the bomb shelter thesis with disdain.
Mattogno's critiques were written in early 1999, and the first was responded to at the time. On the whole, Mattogno's critiques do not merit much space here, not only because they have already been responded to, but also because there is a lot of extraneous matter in his articles.
In the first of these, Mattogno sought to prove that the basements of the crematoria could not have been bomb shelters. There was certainly some good things in this critique, not least because he was able to correct several inaccuracies which we had been led to make by our over-reliance on Pressac's presentation. However, he did not solve the problem of the gastight fixtures as such, and we chided him for it in our response. His second response was not to our mind worth much further comment, so we will not elaborate on it here.
For the most part, Mattogno used his critiques of the bomb shelter thesis to argue a highly individualized and eccentric version of the disinfection thesis. We say eccentric, because while Mattogno repeatedly insisted that he had read all of the Moscow documents several times, he never bothered to use the Bischoff report of May 16, 1943, which would have helped his argument immeasurably. Another oddity of his critique is that he insisted that there were no bomb shelters prior to November 16, 1943, basing his judgment on a memorandum from that date. Yet he made no reference to the copious materials pertaining to civil air defense that are in the Moscow archives.
Professor van Pelt's critique of the bomb shelter thesis came up in his expert opinion, and also in his testimony at the Irving-Lipstadt trial. It is much more to the point than Mattogno's analysis but contains many errors. We will simply limit ourselves to a compression of van Pelt's statements, along with out responses. We have chosen not to excerpt Van Pelt's expert report in extenso out of respect for his copyright, but we have given appropriate reference to both the expert report as well as the testimony for those who care to check.
Pelt first criticizes the bomb shelter thesis in the course of a criticism of Wilhelm Stäglich, who was the first to propound the interpretation back in the 1970's. Van Pelt's criticism was that the idea of the basements of Crematorium II or III serving as bomb shelters was "nonsensical" because they were not built as bomb shelters, and second, because there would be a problem of taking shelter in a space where dead bodies were stored. [PR, 247]
These criticisms repeat Mattogno, but we don't consider either of them particularly strong. In the first place, there appears to be some confusion about what constitutes a bomb shelter: no one has ever claimed that the morgues were designed as bomb shelters. The claim is simply that, as basements, they would be natural for auxiliary bomb shelter use. Since the basements were equipped with gastight doors with peepholes (including 8 mm glass of double thickness covered with clasp), it follows that the doors were air raid shelter doors. Therefore, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that they were adapted to serve a civil air defense purpose, not primarily, but for a secondary, tertiary, alternate, or auxiliary purpose. This point seems to escape both Mattogno and van Pelt.
Comparing the situation of the Birkenau crematoria with the well-known conversion of Crematorium I of Auschwitz is not a fair comparison. The conversion of Crematorium I was a full-scale conversion: the non-functioning ovens were taken down. But no one has ever claimed that the crematoria in Birkenau were shut down so that their basements could be used as bomb shelters. Therefore, the adaptations that would be expected would be relatively minor, as indeed they appear to have been, involving the installation of gastight doors, gastight shutters, some screens, and eventually two emergency exits for Crematoria II and III. In other words, the adaptations did not conflict with the primary purpose of these facilities as crematoria.
The criticism about the bodies in the morgue also echoes Mattogno and is a valid one: no one wants to think about taking shelter in a morgue with dead bodies. However, the presence of dead bodies would even more clearly frustrate the use of the space for disinfection, let alone for the duping of prisoners about to be gassed. Furthermore, it is difficult to think that van Pelt would make this argument, since he repeatedly cited the June 28, 1943 document which claims a cremation potential of 1,440 bodies per day for both Crematorium II and III. Under such conditions, the morgues of the crematoria would be empty most of the time.
Here we feel that both Mattogno and van Pelt fail to understand the difference between fitting out a space for auxiliary air raid shelter use according to higher directives and the actual anticipated regular use of such a space for air raids. While it is true that there are documents to justify the bomb shelter thesis; that doesn't mean that the equipment of the crematoria with gastight fixtures meant that the threat of air raids was considered imminent. If the threat of bombing became a pressing concern, there would have been no problem is simply deciding to stop using the morgues as morgues. Certainly, the indication from Pohl's recommendations in June of 1944 suggests that the morgues of Crematoria II and III were not being used as morgues by that time.
Incidentally, it is worth pointing out that according to the Vergasungskeller note it appears that Morgue #1 was no longer meant for the storage of corpses at all, at least by January 1943.
Another one of Pelt's main criticisms concerns the fact that the basements of the crematoria were about a mile and a half from the SS barracks. 
We also consider this a weak criticism, and for several reasons. First, the crematoria were equipped with basements and were built at the far end of the camp. The use of the basements as bomb shelters would have been strictly secondary. It would be pointless to build the crematoria next to the SS barracks just so such a secondary use could be facilitated. On the other hand, as new structures, it would have been normal to fit out the crematoria with civil air defense paraphernalia. To argue that the crematoria could not have had bomb shelters because they were not convenient to the SS barracks would be equivalent to saying that the Germans had no business adapting new or existing buildings for air raid shelter purposes. Nevertheless, that is precisely what they did.
Furthermore, we know from the correspondence between Himmler, Glücks, and Pohl that there was great concern about security in the event of air raids. The crematoria, along with the Central Sauna, would have been excellent facilities for SS deputed to guard the western perimeter of the camp in the event of a devastating raid and an attempted mass escape. In fact, the crematoria and Sauna were the only fixed structures on the western perimeter. Finally, the crematoria and the surrounding areas were among the busiest parts of the camp, including the crematoria, the Sauna, the effects barracks of Kanada, and the water treatment and sewage plants. There would normally be large numbers of SS in the vicinity simply in a supervisory or guarding capacity. The presence of SS in the area also relates to the question of who would use the cellars, in the event of an air raid, or, better to say when the threat of air raids became persistent. No doubt the space would be allocated just as the camp administration allocated spaces in the June 1944 meeting when they discussed four reinforced concrete shelters for the SS and the Blockführers.
Farther on in his expert opinion, van Pelt discusses our own arguments in detail . Van Pelt's rationale for discussing the bomb shelter thesis apparently hinged on the fact that Irving had provided a link to our main essay, and so van Pelt apparently concluded that Irving was our "electronic publisher". Notwithstanding his mistake, van Pelt went on to deal with the bomb shelter thesis in terms of our presentation in that essay, which was very cursory. He did not bother to consult either Technique or Defending, even though they were both specifically referenced.
First, van Pelt attacked our suggestion that the crematoria could have served double and even triple purposes, first as morgues, then as bomb shelters, and finally as ad hoc delousing and disinfection stations. According to van Pelt, the argument "does not make any sense" and that there is "absolutely no indication anywhere"  supporting the idea of such dual or triple use.
There is not much to say about this criticism, except that it is completely refuted by the Bischoff Report of May 16, 1943. At the same time, we discussed our reasoning about this matter in our re-appraisal of the "Criminal Traces."
A bit further on, Pelt continued, now arguing that the bomb shelter thesis was inadequate to explain the aboveground Crematoria IV and V.
It is of course true that Crematoria IV and V were built above ground and would not offer much protection in an air raid in the case of a direct hit. Probably no shelter at Auschwitz would. Nevertheless, aboveground shelters and aboveground conversions were common for civil defense purposes. We have also seen that there was a preference to simply use wooden struts and other materials to reinforce the walls and the ceilings of such structures. Certainly, the western rooms of Crematoria IV and V, equipped with fireproof sheets of Heraklith in their ceilings, and gastight window-shutters, would have provided some protection from bomb splinters and incendiaries. In addition, to the extent that both spaces were equipped with washing facilities, they could have served as decontamination centers, in the event of an aerial poison gas attack. In other words, while they would not have functioned very well as bomb shelters, they would have been better than nothing, and they certainly would have worked as gas shelters. Furthermore, in terms of civil air defense intentions, we note that Drawing 2216 reproduced in Pressac [ATO, 381] clearly shows the outline of a fire fighting reservoir directly to the east of Crematorium IV as early as March 20, 1943. Of course, such a reservoir could have many purposes, but it certainly would be consistent with civil air defense intentions as well, since we have seen that the creation of such reservoirs was common in the low-level civil air defense documents.
Ultimately, the criticisms of both Mattogno and van Pelt with regard to Crematoria IV and V have to be looked at in terms of the proposed alternatives. We will come back to these in our conclusions.
Van Pelt's next criticism is that no one was obliged in 1945 or thereafter to remark on the possibility that the gastight fixtures of the crematoria could be interpreted in terms of air raid shelters.  His logic, that there was no reason to do so because there was no reason to do so, is unassailable. However, the documents we have provided in this study certainly show that there would have been some very good reasons to do so. In the first place, we note that the attendees of the June 26, 1944 conference include a number of prominent Auschwitz officers, including Kramer, Höß, Baer, and even Dr. Münch. All of these individuals were put on trial after the war, and all of them must have known what a gastight door at Auschwitz was. Yet it appears that none of them ever bothered to try to mitigate their own guilt by pointing out the potentially benign interpretation of such fixtures. That alone is unusual, and says something about the conditions under which these individuals were tried.
In the second place, the documents presented here make it very clear that from the spring of 1944, gastight doors with peepholes were being used for trench shelters to protect the SS and some of the prisoners from poison gas attacks. Nevertheless, according to the traditional narrative, the same kinds of doors were being used at the same time to kill about half a million other prisoners with poison gas. Such a dual use of gastight doors with peepholes is something that certainly should have deserved comment, not only by the Poles in 1945, but by every historian of Auschwitz since.
Next, van Pelt accuses us of "accusing Auschwitz scholars of suppressing (non-existent) evidence" relevant to our understanding of the gas chambers. 
We consider it rather basic that confronted with an object that was allegedly use to kill hundreds of thousands of people one would want to know where it came from, who made it, according to what design, and why. Even if the consensus were to conclude that many people were gassed to death with the help of air raid shelter doors, the civil air defense origin of these doors would certainly be of some importance in determining when the putative murder program was decided upon, and how. A gastight door with peephole is an air raid shelter door, no matter what it was used for, and the argument made by previous historians (and by the Polish, Soviet and German courts) that such doors are prima facie evidence of gas chambers simply cannot be sustained in the light of current knowledge.
Pelt wrapped up his remarks on our cursory presentation of the bomb shelter thesis by claiming that it could not stand up to serious criticism, because it made "little sense" and because it avoided the "entailed consequent of the hypothesis" such as determining the nature of gastight fixtures for other crematoria in other camps, and therefore the bomb shelter thesis is "without any value." 
There is some merit to this criticism, because comparing the facilities at different camps would have been a preferred way of proceeding, were it not for the fact that the materials concerning these other camps are currently even more inaccessible than the records for Auschwitz. However, we pursued this matter to some extent in Defending and in our private studies thereafter, and it does indeed seem that there were comparable levels of civil air defense and gas protection in other camps. Besides, everyone knows that the equipment of crematoria with showers was common, and furthermore everyone knows that the showers at Dachau and Mauthausen were both equipped with gastight doors. If Professor van Pelt wished to argue that these other showers were gas chambers, it would certainly assist his presentation if he were to provide the "entailed consequent" to his own thesis.
Van Pelt then continued a discussion of the bomb shelter thesis in the context of discussing the three documents from Moscow, which we sent to the British historian David Irving in early 1998. These included, we recall, our extemporaneous comments about them, which in fact comprise the sole presentation of our work on his site.
Van Pelt argued that the 176 pre-fabricated concrete shells described in the two 1943 documents were meant exclusively for one or two man shelters around the perimeter of the camp, and not for larger shelters, let alone gastight shelters. 
Once again, van Pelt is wrong, not only because the report on the von Mirbach inspection shows that he is wrong but also because the documents make it clear that the trench shelters were supposed to be gastight. True, we over-estimated the number of shelters involved, as well as the ability of the Birkenau terrain to sustain shelters. However, we did not inaccurately read the intention to provide shelter for the prisoners.
Next, Pelt moved on to a general criticism of the thesis as it pertains to the crematoria, this time claiming that none of the blueprints show gaslocks or emergency exits.  In addition to misnaming architectural drawings "blueprints", van Pelt seems unable to distinguish between design and alternative use. In fact, all four crematoria had foyers (Vorraum) that would have easily functioned as gaslocks, and all four of the crematoria had emergency exits. In the case of Crematoria IV and V, the "gas chambers" had extra doors, and in the case of Crematoria II and III, the emergency exits, in the form of concrete tubes, were actually installed. We would point out that these emergency exits were identified in Part 2 of Defending a long time ago.
The first figure shows the collapsed crematoria roof with the emergency exit tube visible at back center. The second figure is an inside view of the ladder inside the tube. Click on either image to see a larger version.
Van Pelt then moved on to argue that the Germans would never have built shelters for the prisoners, and supported his argument by quoting Primo Levi's memoirs.  Again, this is one of those cases where the documents presented here make a response superfluous: the Germans planned a number of shelters, and many of these were for the prisoners.
In the same way, van Pelt went on to claim that the only fixed structure adapted for air raid shelter purposes was Crematorium I. 
It is clear from the von Mirbach inspection of December, 1943, as well as from the minutes of the June 26, 1944 conference that it was intended to make significant use of existing structures for air raid shelter purposes, for the SS and for the prisoners. The equipment of these existing structures with standard civil air defense fixtures, such as gastight doors, is a logical inference. In addition, the minutes from the June 26, 1944 conference indicates that a number of trench shelters were planned for the prisoners, and it is clear from other documents that these trench shelters were equipped with gastight doors and gastight ventilation chimneys. There is frankly no reason why the existing structures would not have been similarly equipped.
Van Pelt concluded his discussion of the bomb shelter thesis, by challenging us to provide some evidence of the "hundreds" of gastight air raid shelter doors that we referenced in our correspondence with David Irving. He claimed that he knew of only a few such references, and they all had to do with homicidal gas chambers.
It is certainly possible that in our correspondence with Irving we overstated the number of gastight doors that we would expect to find, still, just based on the documents discussed in this study, we have found reference to between 150-200 gastight doors explicitly for air raid shelter purposes. We stress that this is a casual counting, derived from only fragmentary records, and that there is the possibility of some double counting. Still, a more complete accounting may reveal even more gastight doors used for air raid shelter purposes. In cases such as this, it is the amateur who poses the challenge to the highly paid and lionized expert, not the other way around.
To summarize the criticisms of the bomb shelter thesis, we consider the efforts of Mattogno and van Pelt to be rather weak because they are solely negative in character. Instead of working from the uncontested observation that the gastight fixtures of the Criminal Traces were identical to civil air defense fixtures, they proceeded from the premise that the crematoria never could have fulfilled an air raid shelter function. Instead of working within the structure of the argument, they both preferred to simply look for reasons to reject it. We do not consider this very productive or intelligent scholarship.
It seems to us that the proper point of departure would have been to check first whether the gastight fixtures in the Birkenau crematoria were in fact identical to civil air defense fixtures. Once that was established, the follow up would have involved asking why that was the case, or rather, how it was possible that that would be the case. Apparently complacent about their expert knowledge and their command of the 80,000 pages of the Central Construction Office files, neither expert made any serious effort to test or verify the grounds for their rejection. Neither expert noticed the extent of civil air defense procedures, directives, recommendations, let alone descriptions of fixtures or structures, that are in fact littered all over the Central Construction Office files. We find this both surprising and regrettable.
We conclude that neither Mattogno nor van Pelt succeeded in diminishing the bomb shelter thesis is any serious way, not least because so many of their statements could be refuted by the very documents that they claim to know so well. In particular, nearly all of van Pelt's statements concerning the bomb shelter thesis are either obtuse or have been proven wrong on the basis of the documents presented here.
We are loath to criticize the work of other historians especially when they have specialized in the subject under discussion for many years. That Mattogno and van Pelt rejected the bomb shelter thesis out of hand is no problem, except insofar as it prevents us from getting at the truth. Looking at the criticisms leveled by van Pelt in particular, we cannot escape the knowledge that his judgments, based on a dismissal of the bomb shelter thesis, and a failure to investigate the relevant subject matter, may have had some wider ramifications. We do not choose to criticize Van Pelt because we are sure that he is a dedicated and committed professional who is moreover devoted to his subject. Nevertheless it seems clear that his treatment of the bomb shelter thesis was overly dismissive, and that historical scholarship and the best interests of justice could have been better served.
Part Six: Conclusions
When we first proposed a more global civil air defense explanation for the gastight fixtures at Auschwitz-Birkenau, we expected the experts on this subject would investigate the matter, confirming what elements of the interpretation were true and what elements false. In the end, the experts did nothing.
The basic argument of Technique and Operation of German Anti-Gas Shelters in World War Two was that the gastight fixtures comprising the Criminal Traces of Pressac were identical to ordinary German civil air defense fixtures. That basic argument, concerning the identity and therefore the source of these fixtures has never been successfully refuted and we doubt if it ever will be.
Building on Technique, we then attempted to elaborate the theory by looking for evidence of such gastight fixtures and other civil air defense fixtures at Auschwitz and elsewhere. That search has been continued in the present study.
Some thirty documents, out of hundreds if not thousands of such documents from the Central Construction Office at Auschwitz have been presented and these demonstrate:
- That Auschwitz, and in particular its construction office, was in receipt of high level civil air defense memoranda, directives, and instructions throughout the war,
- That these documents spelled out the manner in which civil air defense measures were to be implemented, including recommendations involving the use of new and existing buildings for auxiliary bomb shelter use,
- That Auschwitz received high level directives on air raid shelter measures in February and March of 1943, that is, simultaneous with the completion of the crematoria and the fitting of gastight doors and shutters at those locations,
- That the planning of dedicated trench shelters began in the summer of 1943, only weeks after the last of the gastight fittings had been delivered to the crematoria,
- That these trench shelters were meant for the SS, the workers, and for the prisoner population both at Auschwitz, Birkenau and all of the other sub-camps,
- That the building of more shelters at Auschwitz and Birkenau was frustrated by overcrowding, lack of space, and the high water table at Birkenau,
- That even so several trench shelters were built or planned at Birkenau,
- That all of these trench shelters were to be equipped with gastight doors, and such trench shelters were being completed as early as March, 1944,
- That it was assumed existing buildings would also be used for civil air defense, including their basements,
- That the preparation of existing buildings for civil air defense was satisfactorily advanced by the end of 1943, and had been — at least with respect to blackout preparations — for a long time by then,
- That the basements of the buildings in Auschwitz were specifically allocated to the prisoners for civil air defense,
- That camp security was an important element in the civil air defense measures applied at Auschwitz.
On the basis of the above we feel it reasonable to conclude that the high level civil air defense directives from 1940 through 1944 were implemented with increasing attention throughout 1943 and 1944, and possibly even from the fall of 1942. Moreover, we feel justified in drawing some other conclusions.
First, that the crematoria and the Central Sauna, as the only fixed structures on the western perimeter of the camp, were natural sites for civil air defense since they formed the only bulwark against prisoner risings or attempted mass escapes in the event of an air raid.
Second, that the Central Sauna and Crematoria II and III, because they were equipped with basements, were natural and indeed inevitable candidates for civil air defense adaptation, a matter which must have reached a critical stage by June, 1944. This last conclusion implies that the basements of these facilities would not be used either for their normal functions or for any extraordinary function. This implication is supported by the recommendations of General Pohl in June 1944, when he recommended that six mortuaries be built.
We may provisionally conclude, then, that the bomb shelter thesis has proved its value in explicating the source, origin, or nature of gastight fixtures at Auschwitz-Birkenau. However, that does not prove the purpose of the gastight fixtures of the four Birkenau crematoria, so we return to that question.
Again, the gastight fixtures comprising the Criminal Traces are identical to civil air defense fixtures and there can be no real doubt as to their origin in civil air defense design. Compelling proof emerges since it now appears that the "little doors" of Crematoria IV and V, found by Pressac in the coke storage room of Crematorium I in 1982, have nothing to do with those Birkenau crematoria at all. The shutters are too big, and are almost certainly the remnant of the gassichere Fensterblende built for the Crematorium I bomb shelter conversion in 1944.
The question remains as to the plausibility of the bomb shelter explanation of these gastight fixtures versus the disinfection and gas chamber explanations. Again, this is really no longer a question of what the fixtures were, but rather why they were fitted in late winter and early spring of 1943.
With regard to the disinfection thesis, it is certainly clear that camp hygiene, with a view to controlling the death rate in the camp, was a pressing concern to the Central Construction Office from the summer of 1942 and thereafter. The intended dual use of the crematoria for disinfection purposes, including the setting up of showers for the camp population, has been demonstrated. Other documents have been noted, and together we feel that the disinfection thesis properly explains some of the Criminal Traces. However, the gastight fixtures are superfluous to the disinfection thesis, not only for Crematoria IV and V, where the absence of mechanical ventilation is significant, but also for Crematorium III, where the presence of a gastight door with peephole is not needed with genuine showers. In addition, there is nothing in the disinfection literature or in the documents revealed so far that attest to the disinfection use of bomb shelter doors and shutters at Auschwitz.
With regard to the gas chamber thesis, the use of the basements of Crematorium III for showers, and the apparent use of the basements of Crematorium II for the same purpose and perhaps other disinfection purposes, suggests a conflict which undermines the credibility of that thesis. In addition, the actual physical arrangement of Crematoria IV and V frustrates any argument that seeks to claim that these structures were somehow "specially designed" for mass murder.
Therefore the crux of the gas chamber thesis remains, not documents, but testimony. Insofar as the advocates of the gas chamber thesis are willing to admit that documents concerning disinfection and civil air defense do not advance their thesis, nothing prevents these historians from basing their interpretation on the words of those who survived the camp or who confessed to mass gassings.
However, the documents we have reviewed raise some serious doubts about the fundamental trustworthiness of the apparent convergence of testimonies. For example, the showers of Crematorium III were almost certainly genuine, and, if so, this contradicts the eyewitnesses, including all of the witnesses relied on by van Pelt. Second, the conversion of Crematorium I to a gastight operating theater and bomb shelter lists all of the work to be done on that structure and all of the materials needed. It mentions filling the holes in the roof of the oven room, but nothing about the morgue. It mentions the need for air raid shelter doors, heaters, and ventilation, but says nothing about any such equipment being on hand. Therefore, the credibility of witnesses who claim gassings in Crematorium I is similarly compromised. One is left to conclude that any gassings that took place at Crematorium I must have taken place without heaters, ventilation, gastight doors, or holes in the roof.
Finally, the June 26, 1944 conference had many of the leading personalities at Auschwitz in attendance, many of who were tried after the war. All of them must have been familiar with the ordinary meaning of a gastight door with peephole, but apparently none of them ever hinted at the identity of these bomb shelter doors with the doors that were supposedly used to gas hundreds of thousands. Nor did the eyewitnesses ever note the similarity. Such a glaring omission in postwar accounts is no trifling matter, it indicates either willful suppression or a climate that encourages the suppression of material facts.
While the disinfection and gas chamber theses will continue to have their adherents, we still feel that the gastight features of the Birkenau crematoria, fitted in early 1943, were attached with a civil air defense end in view. There are a number of arguments that are persuasive to us, beyond the obvious one, namely, that the fixtures are of a civil air defense origin:
- First, both Crematoria II and III were equipped with emergency exits. The concrete tubes on the western wall of both Morgue #1's are clearly emergency exits, the only question is when they were attached. Our best guess is no later than the spring of 1944.
- Second, Crematorium III and possibly Crematorium II were equipped with showers. The showers with a gastight door with peephole effectively refutes both the disinfection and gas chamber interpretations of gastight fixtures in one instance, which can then be extrapolated to cover the other gastight fixtures.
- Third, Crematoria IV and V appear to have had more gastight doors than either disinfection or gas chambers would require. There are other structural problems with these crematoria. It should be obvious that, without ventilation, and with a drain leading to the doctor's office, the exposure the western rooms to poison gas, either for disinfection or mass gassing, would be fraught with danger and difficulty. Hence, the gastight fixtures covering these rooms, and apparently, several others, had nothing to do with either disinfection or gas chambers.
- Fourth, Crematoria IV had a fire-fighting reservoir planned for the eastern end of the structure already by March of 1943. Fire fighting reservoirs could be used for a number of purposes, and we are not forgetting the danger of fires. Still, the construction of such reservoirs is strongly associated with the implementation of civil air defense measures at Auschwitz.
- Fifth, Crematoria IV and V were fitted with blackout lamps a few weeks after the last gastight door was sent to the crematoria. We feel the juxtaposition in time and space of these blackout lamps with the gastight fixtures derived from civil air defense is too close to be dismissed as coincidence.
- Sixth, and finally, we feel it is important to consider the personalities involved. Both Kammler and Bischoff were ex-Luftwaffe, and were well aware of the requirements of German civil air defense. We consider it highly unlikely that Bischoff would not have implemented the guidelines passed down to him, and if he had failed to make the attempt we are certain that Kammler would have reminded him.
In conclusion, we feel that the bomb shelter thesis has been substantially proved. There is no doubt that German civil air defense literature is an important key to interpreting gastight fixtures at Auschwitz Birkenau. The essential identity of gastight doors, shutters, and ventilation pipes has been shown, whether for the Birkenau crematoria, or the base camp crematorium, or any of the many trench shelters. Finally, the civil air defense intent of these civil air defense fixtures in the Birkenau crematoria seems to be the only logical explanation, and the only one that can be even indirectly proved with the documents.
Of course, we could still be wrong. Future researchers could easily test the record by comparing the files of the Central Sauna for the presence of gastight fixtures, or the other concentration camps, particularly their crematoria. Unable to do more, we await the work of these other researchers. We hope that their work is more comprehensive and does more justice to the subject than the efforts of the world's greatest authorities on Auschwitz.
It also should be said that the proof of the bomb shelter thesis does not necessarily disprove the claim that hundreds of thousands of people were gassed at Auschwitz. But that claim, which was never really based on documents, is not likely to be refuted with documents. Nor is it our intention to prove that "no one was ever gassed at Auschwitz", although we do not believe that was the case. The issue here has been to accurately determine the nature of the Criminal Traces, and our conclusion is that the vast majority of them are still best explained in terms of German civil air defense, while the remainder are best explained in terms of disinfection.
In choosing not to aggressively argue whether gassings took place, either here or elsewhere, we recognize that the belief in gassing is a strong one. It must be admitted also that in a sense such a belief serves as an explanation to those that survived and lost their families. The belief in gassing is also a kind of psychological index of what survivors experienced in the camps: to question the gassings appears to deny their state of mind at the time, as well as their losses. It follows that the belief in gassing is not something that can be dethroned by rational argument. We can approach the conclusion; but it is best for each to come to his own.
* * *
Holocaust revisionists have been cruelly treated in many western countries, where it has been made a crime to express revisionist views. In other countries, such as the United States and Britain, while the expression of revisionist views is not a crime, those that express such views become the target of persons bent on destroying them. Hence, revisionists have good reasons to be angry.
Still, we would suggest that to deny the gas chambers in a cavalier or obtrusive way is not likely to be very persuasive, it simply stiffens the polarization already existing. The Jewish people had much to fear in the 20th Century: rightly or wrongly those fears doubtless influence the conduct and attitude of many Jews with regard to revisionism. But in the last analysis revisionism is not aspiring to the Good if it seeks merely to make its opponents fretful, or goad them into doing stupid things. To be sure, the manipulation of whatever happened in the camps, for political, ideological, or economic purposes, and frequently with a pronounced anti-German slant, is bound to rouse anger and lead to inappropriate remarks by revisionists. But it is not right to forget what the Jewish people did suffer, just because western historians have allowed the suffering of everyone else in World War Two to be forgotten. The remedy for historical or historiographical injustice is not to get even, but to be fair.
Therefore, while we consider the gassing claim to be one of the most pervasive and ultimately tragic of historical delusions, it does not follow that the purpose of historical study should be to make broad negative statements. We would prefer that the purpose of historical study would be simply to increase our understanding, and understanding is not achieved by trying to prove something false. It is achieved by trying to prove something true. For our part, there is no need to say that there were no gas chambers. It is enough to say that there were bomb shelters in Birkenau.
The traditional word coupling in German to describe the treatment of people or spaces for hygienic purposes is "Entlausung und Entwesung" which literally means killing lice and other forms of life. We have translated them throughout at "delousing and disinfection" although there are some caveats to observe. First, in English, disinfection implies destroying bacteria. Few German methods of "Desinfektion" (the other German word) were completely successful in this respect: most German methods were content just to kill insects. Over the years there have been a lot of arguments about "Entwesung" and its meanings, such that there has also been an attempt to introduce the word "disinfest" and "disinfestation" to distinguish disinfection means that do not destroy bacteria from those that more or less do. We do not believe entering such fine distinctions into ordinary English parlance serves any useful purpose.
The reader should simply understand that "disinfection" in German has a different scope than in English, and does not necessarily imply the destruction of bacteria. Further it should be understood that Zyklon B, whose active ingredient was cyanide gas, was useless in destroying bacteria, but steam and hot air were respectively more successful.
ATO = Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, Jean Claude Pressac, NY:1989
Gerner = "Schlüsseldokument" ist Fälschung, Dipl.-Ing. Manfred Gerner (VffG, 3/98)
[M]attogno/C1 = Morgue Cellars of Birkenau: Gas Shelters or Disinfesting Chambers?, Carlo Mattogno (www.codoh.com/granata)
Mattogno/C2 = Reply to Samuel Crowell's "Comments" About My Critique of the Bomb Shelter Thesis, Carlo Mattogno
Mattogno/SB = "Sonderbehandlung" and Crematory II, Carlo Mattogno (www.codoh.com/granata)
Mattogno/GP = The "Gasprüfer" of Auschwitz, Carlo Mattogno (www.codoh.com)
Nowak = Kurzwellen-Entlausungsanlagen in Auschwitz, Dr. Ing. Hans Jürgen Nowak, (VffG, 2/98)
Nowak/Rademacher = "Gasdichte" Türen in Auschwitz, Dr.-Ing. Hans Jürgen Nowak & Dipl.-Ing. Werner Rademacher (VffG, 4/98)
Additional information about this document
|Title:||Bomb Shelters in Birkenau: A Reappraisal|
|First posted on CODOH:||June 3, 2000, 7 p.m.|