The Gas Chambers
1. Structure and Purpose of the Gas Chambers: The Polish-Soviet Expert Report of August 1944
The joint Polish-Soviet Commission, which we have already mentioned repeatedly in the previous chapter and which apparently was constituted on Polish initiative, drew up a technical and chemical expert report about the alleged facilities for the mass extermination of humans. The Commission began its work on August 4, 1944, and concluded on the 23rd of that same month. In the following we shall quote the text of this historically very significant, yet to date unpublished document, which seems to be unknown even in Polish historiography. In the previous chapter we have already quoted the section dealing with the (new) crematorium, which has no relevance to the subject here at issue.
Now, the expert report about the gas chambers:
August 4 to 23, 1944, city of Lublin
Technical and chemical forensic expert report by the Commission, consisting of the following members:
- Chairman: engineer and architect for the city of Lublin, KELLES-KRAUSE;
- Chief engineer and lecturer for building and construction matters, D. M. TELJANER;
- Chief engineer, Candidate for the technical sciences, and lecturer for fire studies, G. P. GRIGOREV;
- Chief engineer, Candidate for the chemical sciences, and lecturer for organic chemistry, P. S. PELKIS; and
- Colonel of the Medical Corps, W. A. BLOCHIN,
who, acting in agreement with and on the suggestion of the Polish-Soviet Commission, and in order to further the investigation of the German atrocities and misdeeds in the city of Lublin and its environs, have drawn up a technical and chemical forensic expert report about the gas chambers, toxins and cremation furnaces located on the territory of the Lublin SS concentration camp.
DESCRIPTION OF THE OBJECTS
Facility: Plan of the Concentration Camp Lublin[] and Diagrams
No. 1,[] 2, 3 and 4
Altogether, the following were inspected and pencil-sketched on tracing paper:
Six gas chambers / cf. Diagram No. 1
Including: three gas chambers (Nos. I, II and III), located at the northeastern end wall of the Bath; one gas chamber (No. IV) immediately adjoining the Bath and forming an entire building wing as seen from the exterior. / On the plan of the concentration camp, gas chambers I, II, III, IV and the Bath, which actually consisted of Barracks No. 41 and 42, are labeled No. 16. / Two gas chambers (Nos. V and VI), located on the area between Compounds 1 and 2.
Arsenal of chemical substances.
Crematorium, with adjoining rooms.
The GAS CHAMBERS Nos. I, II and III (see Diagram 1) are actually separate facilities of rectangular shape, with a room (No. 14) protruding from the southwest side, serving to store gas bottles, and another room (No. 4) adjoining the northwest side, in which an air heater was installed.
These chambers, and Room 14 for the storage of gas bottles, have massive concrete walls 50 cm thick, as well as dividing walls 20 cm thick. Except for the heating system, the entire facility is lined with a panel of reinforced concrete, 15 cm thick. The walls and ceiling are neatly plastered, the floors consist of concrete with stud screws. A layer of clay covers the reinforced-concrete walls.
Room No. 4 where the air heater is installed / Air Heater Room / is a simplified kind of wooden annex. The entire room is built of wooden slats and can be dismantled.
On the plan, the layout of the gas chambers is divided into three subsections, two of which (Nos. I and II) are the same size, measuring 4.75 x 3.60 m each. The third subsection (No. III) measures 9.70 x 3.70 m. The interior height of the room is 2.2 m.
Therefore, the area and volume of the gas chambers Nos. I, II and III are as follows:
# of the chamber
Area in m2
Volume in m3
GAS CHAMBER NO. I. It has a door measuring 2 x 0.9 m in the south wall, as well as a hermetically closable ventilation opening (20 x 20 cm) in the ceiling. Within the gas chamber there is a galvanized gas pipe 1.5 inches in diameter, with openings 6 mm in diameter. The distance between these openings is 25 cm each along the entire length of the gas pipe. The pipe is installed at a height of 30 cm above floor level and runs along all four walls of the chamber, with the exception of the space taken up by the door. One end of the gas pipe is 'blind', while the other leads to the chamber where the gas bottles were stored / Equipment Room No. 14.
The chamber door is of boiler plate iron 12 mm thick, with a rubber lining and locking levers that allow it to be hermetically sealed. The iron door contains a glass peephole 85 mm in diameter, surrounded with a screen.
To allow observation of the events in Gas Chamber No. I, the wall of the same contains an observation s window 20 x 12 cm in size, through which one can see out of the gas bottle storage room / Equipment Room No. 14 / and into the gas chamber. It is glazed on the side of the Equipment Room. On the side of Gas Chamber No. I it is protected with a grid of iron rods 10 mm in diameter. The chamber is illuminated by two electric lights mounted in niches to either side of the entrance door and protected by a double iron grate. The connection for the switch is in the Equipment Room.
GAS CHAMBER NO. II. Its interior has no gas pipe, no electric lights and no peephole. There is a 20 x 20 cm opening in the ceiling. This opening can be hermetically sealed with a lid located above the room. The chamber door is of iron and outfitted with clamps and rubber gaskets, allowing it to be hermetically sealed.
GAS CHAMBER NO. III. It has two entrances, located on the longitudinal axis of the chamber on opposite walls. Both measure 2 x 0.9 m. In the wall on the heating side there are two round openings 25 cm in diameter, by which Gas Chamber No. III is connected to the heating system installed in the adjoining room. There are no openings in the opposite wall of Gas Chamber III or in the ceiling. Gas Chamber No. III is equipped with a gas pipe of galvanized iron, 1.5 inches in diameter. It spans the entire length of the room at a height of 30 cm above the concrete floor. Both ends of the pipe have openings through which the gas is discharged. These openings are protected with cast-ion gratings cemented into the wall. The pipe leads from the room where the gas bottles were stored / Equipment Room No. 14 / into the Gas Chamber.
The construction of the doors and the means for sealing them hermetically are as for Gas Chamber No. I. One of the doors is fixed with an iron casing to hold a thermometer.
The chamber is illuminated by an electric light mounted in a niche on the wall, protected by two iron grids. The switch leads to the gas bottle storage room.
EQUIPMENT ROOM / chamber for storage of gas bottles, No. 14 / adjoins Gas Chambers I and III. The gas pipes from chambers I and III lead into this Equipment Room. Each of the pipe ends is equipped with a special copper socket for the rubber connector hoses to the bottles. The wall of the Equipment Room has an observation window through which one can see into Gas Chamber I; it is surrounded with a metal grate on the gas chamber side, and glazed on the side of the Equipment Room. Beside the window is the switch for the electric lights of Gas Chambers I and III. The area of the Equipment Room is 2.9m².
All three chambers as well as the Equipment Room / No. 14 / are covered by a pole-support roof, i.e., one erected on wooden posts, 6.5 m high and with an area of 855m². The pole-support roof is surrounded by a 3-m-high barbed wire barrier with two gates to admit cars. The pole-support roof is only accessible through said gate or through the immediately adjacent Undressing Room of Barrack No. 42 and the gas chamber of Barrack No. 41 / see Diagram 1 /.
GAS CHAMBER NO. IV. Gas Chamber No. IV is located in Barrack 41, which in part leads directly to the Canopy. Gas Chamber No. IV consists of a wooden porch / No. 7 / and Room No. 5, separated by a plastered wall. Room 5 and Gas Chamber IV together take up an area of 28.8 + 72.2 + 6.7 = 107.7m². The Heating Room / No. 15 / is located at Chamber IV.
Gas Chamber IV leads directly to the northern wall of the Shower, together with which it forms an entire wing of the building as seen from outside. Inside, the gas chamber can be reached from the Shower only through a door that can be hermetically sealed with clamps affixed to the side facing the Shower.
The door on the canopy side is of wood; on the inside it is lined with roofing felt. It can be locked from outside with a bolt, and is equipped with screws for the clamps. The outside of the door is lined with felt.
Gas Chamber No. IV, and Room No. 6 which leads to it, are of wooden construction; they are lined on the outside with 'wagonka' [unknown term], on the inside with thin slats, and the gaps in the paneling are filled with pressed wood shavings. The average thickness of the outside walls, with plaster, is 10 cm.
On the ceiling of Chamber No. IV there are two hermetically sealable, retractable openings 20 x 20 cm in size. The wall adjoining the Heating Room contains two round openings of 25 cm diameter each, with permanently installed pipes for the intake of hot air from the heating system installed in Room 15.
The following is a tabular summary of the area and volume of the gas chambers as well as of the adjoining Shower and the remaining rooms of Barrack 41:
Description of room
Gas chamber No. IV
Gas chamber No. IV
Porch for g.ch. IV
Zyklon storage room
Room for 72 shower heads
Area in m2
Volume in m3
The shower room for 42 shower stands in Barrack 42 ( set up parallel to the Shower in Barrack 41) includes a heat chamber for disinfecting the clothing of those people in the showers. The Shower is set up as follows: on the southern side is the Undressing Room, from which one door opens on to the porch in front of the disinfecting chamber and another opens into the Shower.
The opposite wall of the Shower contains a door leading to the Dressing Room. In this room, one door opens into the porch of the Disinfecting Chamber, while another, an exit door, opens under the Canopy. From this exit, the floor underneath the Canopy is equipped with a 1.5-m-wide board panel that leads to the doors of Gas Chambers I and III. At the time of inspection, the Disinfection Chamber was being renovated.
GAS CHAMBERS Nos. V and VI. ( See Diagram 1.) Located on the area of the mechanized laundry between Compounds I and II, in Barrack 28. Each chamber has a heating system, which is installed in the corridor. The chamber's walls on the side where the heating systems are installed are built of red brick. Inside, the walls are plastered with cement stucco. All of Barrack 28 is built of wood slats, and the outside walls are lined with pressed wood shavings. On the inside, Chambers Nos. V and VI each measure 70.5m2, with a volume of 170m3. The doors of both chambers are of wood, lined with flat iron and equipped with the requisite accessories to permit air-tight sealing. On the ceiling of each chamber is a telescoping valve 30 x 30 cm in size, exiting above the ridge of the roof constructed of roofing felt. The telescoping valves are hermetically sealable with lids.
2. Chemical Arsenal
Barrack No. 52 served as storage room for various chemicals. Aside from numerous chemicals generally used for disinfestation and disinfection, the following were discovered there:
a) Five bottles, dark red in color. The following is stamped on them in German:
'Carbon monoxide. Bottled at 150 atmospheres 8.7. 42, Schönerwein and Brenen. Berlin B. 9. Tested at 225 atmospheres. Empty weight 75.8 kg. Volume 40.6 liters.'
On examination of the bottles it was found that the gas contained therein had been used up, but that a small remnant still remained.
b) A box of anti-gas material specifically labeled as protection from carbon monoxide. The box has a diameter of 12.8 cm, its height is 25.4 cm. The box is cylindrical in shape and is coated with dark protective paint.
The box of anti-gas material is inscribed in German:
'CO filter number 86. Protects against carbon monoxide. Also against all chemical warfare agents and against acidic gases, fumes and dust. ( 1-38)25. Use in accordance with §8 of Air Raid Regulations. Company AUER A.G. of Berlin.'
Aside from the inscription, a label is also glued onto the box of anti-gas material, with the following text in German:
'AUER, CO filter No. 09903. Not for use later than June 1944. Can be used for two years from the time of first use. No more than 40 hours total. First use: Date: Use: Hours:
Note: After each use, close box tightly, top and bottom. Store in a cool dry place.'
c) 135 metal cans containing the substance 'Zyklon'. Each can weighs 1,400 grams. More than 400 cans containing the substance 'Zyklon'. Weight per can, 3,750 grams.
The cans are labeled with the following text, in German:
'Zyklon B. German patent: 438818, 447913, 490355, 524261, 575293. POISON GAS! Cyanide substance! Store in a cool dry place! Keep away from sunlight and open flame!
To be opened and used only by trained personnel. Cyanide content 1,500 grams. Main supplier for Germany east of the Elbe, General Government, Poland, Denmark, Norway and border states: TESCH & STABENOW. International Society for Pest Control. Hamburg. 1 / Messberghof. German Society for Pest Control. Frankfurt am Main. Use within three months.'
Tin cans, painted grayish-green, cylindrical in shape.
Among the large cans some were found whose label text differs from that of those mentioned in the previous, in that the description 'Zyklon B' is replaced with 'Zyklon' and reference is made to the last German patent number 575293.
90% of all cans found had been opened and used in the camp.
[...] The concrete gas chamber, with reinforced-concrete roofing and two small observation windows on the side of the mortuary. [...]
[...] Gas Chamber: 6.10 x 5.62 m, 34.28m². [...]
Based on the results of the technical examination of all hermetically sealable chambers located on the grounds of the SS-administered Lublin concentration camp, on the results of an expert chemical analysis similarly carried out for all special facilities of the camp and for the chambers, and on the examination of the chemical substance 'Zyklon' and the bottles of carbon monoxide, but also taking into account the reports of eyewitnesses, the Commission arrived at the following conclusion:
A) The chambers set up on the grounds of the camp were designed and used primarily for the mass poisoning of human beings, which becomes apparent from the following:
For Chamber No. I, with an area of 17.1m2 and a volume of 37.6m3, notable elements of construction and equipment are:
a) The presence of the gas pipe;
b) The presence of a special room with devices for opening the gas bottles and for channeling the gas into the chamber;
c) The presence of a peephole, which was protected by a massive chamber-side iron grid, of two electric lights installed in niches in the wall and also protected by double iron grids, and the absence of any other apparatus or devices inside the chamber, indicate that Chamber No. I was intended ONLY for the poisoning of human beings with carbon monoxide and hydrocyanic acid; therefore, its immediate and direct purpose was THE EXTERMINATION OF HUMAN BEINGS.
2. Chamber No. II, with an area of 17.1m2 and a volume of 37.6m3, is a room of reinforced concrete, with a single massive hermetically sealable door and a hatch in the ceiling, and lacking any kind of equipment or devices ( heating system, racks, coat hooks etc.). This design indicates that this chamber was intended exclusively for poisoning human beings with hydrocyanic acid.
3. Chamber No. III, with an area of 36.3m2 and a volume of 79.8m3, was similarly designed FOR POISONING HUMAN BEINGS WITH CARBON MONOXIDE, as indicated by its construction and by the heating system and gas pipe which comprised its equipment. This chamber could also have been used to disinfest the clothing of the poisoned victims, but not to disinfest the clothing of people washing themselves in the Shower, since it is not connected to the Shower; it is a detached building and is separated from the Shower by a barbed wire barrier.
4. Chamber No. IV, the largest, has an area of 107.7m2 and a volume of 269.5m3. A door leads directly from this chamber into the Shower, but it cannot be considered a regular disinfection chamber associated with the Bath because it was designed to make use of the substance 'Zyklon'. (The use of 'Zyklon' is prohibited if the [gas] chamber is directly connected to a facility where there are people.) The heating system was set up in order to warm the air in winter, which is indispensable for the optimal use of the substance 'Zyklon'. In view of the particular location of the chamber as described in the previous, the possibility that this chamber was used for hot-air disinfestation purposes can be ruled out.
Consequently, this chamber also served the purpose of exterminating human beings.
According to eyewitnesses, this chamber was the chief location used for the mass poisoning of human beings.
5. Chambers V and VI, located between Compounds I and II near the Laundry, were equipped with heating systems and also suited to the use of 'Zyklon'. Accordingly, they too could have been used as chambers for poisoning human beings, but in view of their location / proximity to the Laundry, where the clothing that had belonged to the murdered people was taken to be washed, it follows that these chambers were also used for disinfestation.
In this way, the technical and sanitation-chemical examination of the hermetically sealable chambers of the Lublin concentration camp fully confirms the fact set out herewith, that all these chambers, and especially Nos. I, II, III and IV, were designed and used as sites for the systematic mass extermination of human beings by means of poisoning with poison gases such as hydrocyanic acid ( the substance Zyklon) and carbon monoxide. If Chambers V and VI were also used for disinfestation purposes, then only for the treatment of the clothing of exterminated victims.
B) Assuming that up to six standing people can fit into an area one meter square, then given the simultaneous operation of all chambers designed for poisoning, 1,914 people could be poisoned all at once.
Area in m2
# of people per m2
Total # of people fitting
Poisoning people with hydrogen cyanide in hermetically sealed chambers takes 3 to 5 minutes; poisoning with carbon monoxide takes 5 to 10 minutes.
A hydrocyanic acid concentration of 0.3 milligrams per liter suffices as lethal dose. To attain such a concentration in all chambers equipped for the purpose / Nos. I, II, IV, V and VI / with a total volume of 684.7m3, 684.7 x 0.3 grams = 205.4 grams are required, i.e., less than half the contents of a small can of 'Zyklon'.
A carbon monoxide concentration of 5.6 milligrams per liter / i.e., 0.5% air volume / is lethal within 5 to 10 minutes. In Chambers Nos. I and III, which were equipped for poisoning with this substance and totaled a volume of 116.4m3, this concentration could be attained with the use of 0.1 bottles of carbon monoxide.
of the forensic chemical laboratory analysis.
In 1944, from August 4 to 21, a committee of experts consisting of
Colonel of the Medical Corps W. A. BLOCHIN, Chief engineer, Candidate for the chemical sciences, and lecturer for organic chemistry, P. S. PELKIS, and Chief engineer, Candidate for the technical sciences, and lecturer for fire studies, G. P. GRIGOREV
conducted a forensic chemical laboratory analysis of the contents of the cans labeled 'Zyklon B' and of the bottles labeled carbon monoxide, which had been discovered on the grounds of the SS concentration camp Lublin.
1. 535 cans of the substance 'Zyklon B' were found on the camp grounds. These included 135 cans weighing 1,400 grams and 400 cans weighing 3,750 grams. 90% of all the cans had been opened and used in the camp.
The cans bore the manufacturers' labels with the following text / labels and text in German are enclosed:
'Zyklon B. German patent: 438818, 447913, 490355, 524261, 575293. POISON GAS! Cyanide substance! Store in a cool dry place! Keep away from sunlight and open flame!
To be opened and used only by trained personnel. Cyanide content 1,500 grams. Main supplier for Germany east of the Elbe, General Government, Poland, Denmark, Norway and border states: TESCH & STABENOW. International Society for Pest Control. Hamburg. 1 / Messberghof. German Society for Pest Control. Frankfurt am Main. Use within three months.'
Labels with the same text are also affixed to the small cans, along with a specification of the cyanide content: 500 grams.
Among the large cans, some were found with labels whose text differs from that quoted above in that the description 'Zyklon' is given instead of 'Zyklon B' and that reference is made to only one German patent, 575293.
All cans are of tin, cylindrical in shape and gray-green in color.
Weight of a full, large can: 3,750 g.
Diameter of the can, 15.4 cm
Height, 31.5 cm
Weight of a full, small can: 1,400 g.
Diameter of the can, 15.4 cm
Height, 12.5 cm.
The contents of the cans were tested for the presence of hydrocyanic acid: with indicator paper dipped in benzidine acetate as well as with sodium picrate, the formation of Prussian Blue was effected.
Samples were taken from 18 cans, and 48 individual tests were performed. All samples clearly indicated the presence of hydrogen cyanide by means of reactions specified in the previous.
Two cans of 'Zyklon' weighing 1,750[] grams were opened, and the hydrogen cyanide was driven out for two hours by means of heating to a temperature of 23 to 28 degrees C; the remainder, including the can, weighed:
An empty can weighs 600 grams.
Therefore, the evaporable component of the substance 'Zyklon B' weighs from 1,430[] to 1,440 grams per large can.
Since hydrogen cyanide becomes partly polymerized during storage-which becomes evident in an analysis due to the reduction of the hydrogen cyanide content-one can assume with a fair degree of certainty that the quantity of hydrogen cyanide in a can weighing 3,750 grams is in fact 1,500 grams. This is also the quantity of hydrogen cyanide stated on the manufacturer's label.
For the small cans, removal of the evaporable portion at 28 degrees C for two hours yielded the following values for two cans thus analyzed:
Weight of the remainder including the can, 930 to 950 grams
Weight of the empty can, 350 grams
Weight of the hydrogen cyanide, 450 to 470 grams.
This also approximates the weight of the hydrogen cyanide stated on the manufacturer's label, namely 500 grams.
Therefore, the contents examined are in fact the substance 'Zyklon', which consists of a special preparation of diatomaceous earth in the form of granules 1 cm in diameter, which are soaked with stabilized liquid hydrocyanic acid.
The contents of the cans labeled 'Zyklon', of which a small number were found in the camp, are identical to those of the cans labeled 'Zyklon B'.
Hydrocyanic acid / the substance 'Zyklon' / is primarily used to combat pests in grain silos / mealworms, ephestia moths, and fumigation of plants.
Since 'Zyklon' contains a high percentage of hydrogen cyanide and since it also affects the human organism with its usual toxicity, only specially trained personnel are permitted to handle it.
Aside from the cans containing 'Zyklon', five dark red bottles were also discovered in Barrack No. 52. They bear the manufacturer's imprint with the following text:
'Carbon monoxide. Bottled at 150 atmospheres 8.7. 42, Schönerwein and Brenen. Berlin B. 9. Tested at 225 atmospheres. Empty weight 75.8 kg. Volume 40.6 liters.'
The bottles are numbered: 10, 17, 44, 52, 60.
An examination of the bottles determined that the gas they had contained was largely used up. To permit a chemical analysis of the remaining gas, the bottles were exposed to sunlight and warmed. The insignificant pressure thus achieved in the bottles sufficed to permit the drawing of gas samples.
The samples taken from all five bottles were analyzed to determine the presence of carbon monoxide by means of reactions with iodine pentoxide as well as indicator paper with palladium chloride. In total, ten reactions were performed with iodine pentoxide and ten with palladium chloride.
All tests for these reactions clearly showed the presence of carbon monoxide.
The substance 'Zyklon' which was discovered in the storage rooms at the gas chambers of the Lublin concentration camp consists of specially prepared diatomaceous earth soaked with stabilized liquid hydrogen cyanide.
The quantitative content of hydrogen cyanide in the cans labeled 'Zyklon' corresponds to the data given on the manufacturer's labels. The larger cans contain 1,500 grams, the smaller ones 500 grams.
Chemical analysis shows that five bottles numbered 44, 52, 10, 60 and 17 contained carbon monoxide.
Therefore, the results of the chemical analyses substantiate the correctness of the information marked on the bottles.
2. Design, Construction and Purpose of the Gas Chambers
The original documents surviving to this day verify the exact opposite of the Polish-Soviet Commission's conclusions: all the gas chambers in the concentration camp Majdanek were designed and built exclusively for sanitary purposes, as disinfestation chambers.
One March 23, 1942, plan by the Central Construction Office provided for three disinfestation facilities. The first was an H-shaped facility, called "Delousing", at the center of the camp next to the Laundry; the second was a barrack also called "Delousing" but located outside the camp on its northwestern side; the third was in that part of the camp which, as the detailed plan of this sector shows, was described as "Waffen-SS Clothing Manufacturing Plant".
The aforementioned H-shaped facility had already been designed in October 1941. The blueprint was drawn by the firm of Hans Kori and provided for a large hygiene and sanitation complex consisting of two delousing facilities, set up as mirror images of each other within the aforementioned facility. The one intended for the inmates was located in the left wing while the other, which included eight delousing chambers for clothing, took up the right wing.
The delousing facility for the inmates is shown on Diagram J.-Nr. 9082, which the Kori company drew up on October 23, 1941, and is described in a letter sent that same day by Kori to SS-Sturmbannführer Lenzer. The letter stated:
"Due to your sudden departure from Berlin we had no opportunity to review with you the unresolved issues regarding the delousing facility. Therefore we are writing to you in this matter to inform you of the following:
The ground plan for the left building section with disinfection chamber is divided functionally as shown on the enclosed sketch, Page.[] The Shower is reduced in size whereas the Drying Room is enlarged. We consider an anteroom of the same shape and size as that between the Undressing Room and the Shower to be a desirable addition between the Disinfection and the Drying Room. The space apportionment in front of the Shower and Drying Room can be done as you like, and is suggested on our sketch J.-Nr. 9082."
The description and the enclosed diagram indicate that the building's left wing, intended for delousing the inmates, provided for the following sequence of rooms: Undressing Room with clothing drop-off, Anteroom, Shower, Drying Room, Anteroom, Disinfection. After being disinfected, the inmates proceeded into the building's right wing, where their deloused clothing was returned to them.
The delousing facility intended for the right wing is described as follows in the aforementioned letter from Kori:
"Regarding the layout of the delousing chamber in the Delousing Facility, we wish to point out that we are currently working on numerous such facilities in the service of the relevant Wehrmacht offices. There are usually two delousing chambers, operated with a Kori Calorifer, but often there are also several delousing chambers, adjoining in sequence and operated with one or more Calorifers, depending on the size of the facilities. For the project at issue, we consider the arrangement of the 8 delousing chambers as per the enclosed Diagram J.-Nr. 9081[] to be the most functional. While the preliminary plans had projected 10 delousing chambers, these were only 1,400 to 1,500 m/m wide. Practice has shown that one must make the delousing chambers at least 2,000 m/m wide, if not a bit wider, to allow for easy movement of adequately large carts both in and out. Our Diagram J.-Nr. 9081 reflects this. Between each of two delousing chambers an air heater is installed at 1,000 m/m below floor level. This same lowering also applies to the small Anteroom, from which a few stone steps lead to the main entrance to the Contaminated Side. This is also where the entranceways to the 4 coke bunkers are planned, which, however, are joined into one common bunker along the length of the Delousing Room so as to be able to accommodate a larger supply of coke-as the ground plan on Diagram J.-Nr. 9081 indicates. Cross-section e-f shows details of the arrangement of the warm-air vent and circulation grates, while cross-section c-d shows the differences in height of the floors in the various rooms."
As per this project, the eight delousing chambers were each 2 m wide, 2.10 m high and 3.5 m long and were heated with a coke-fueled calorifer or air heater located between each pair of chambers behind the outside walls. On the inside an opening in the top, connected to the air heater, allowed warm air to exit; on the opposite side, on the floor of each pair of chambers, was a ventilation opening also connected to the air heater via an underground air channel. In structural terms the facility was very similar to the model designed by Kori on July 5, 1940, for the delousing facility of Alt-Drewitz. Delousing proceeded not with Zyklon B, but with hot air.
Kori's projected delousing facility, described above, never became reality.
A March 31, 1942, plan by the Central Construction Office, depicting the "Temperature Delousing Facility of POW Camp Lublin", shows 8 delousing chambers, considerably smaller and without an air heater; most likely they were metal disinfection devices such as were installed in Buildings 5a and 5b of Birkenau.
On this plan, the eight small cells are set up side by side in a structure called "Delousing", 13.5 × 4 m in size. They separate the "clean" side from the "contaminated" side leading outward. The delousing facility consists of a barrack 40.76 × 9.56 m in size. The path taken by the inmates through this structure was: Entrance/Registration ® Shaving/Undressing Room ® Shower ® Dressing Room ® Exit. For clothing the cycle was as follows: Clothing Collection ® Delousing ("contaminated" ® "clean") ® Clothing Return. The Shower included 40 shower heads; the hot water was supplied from the Boiler Room.
This was the original plan of March 23, 1942, for the delousing facility intended to be established outside the camp. As far as one can tell from looking in through the windows of this building, which is off-limits to visitors, this plan was realized, with a few modifications, in Barrack 42 (Building XII). In this barrack one can see the Boiler Room as well as a cement-lined chamber which seem much larger than those sketched on the aforementioned plan.
According to a report of the Central Construction Office, Building XII was 40% complete on July 1, 1942. The report states:
"Building XII Delousing and Bath-meanwhile a second horse stable barrack, with shower facility, has been added."
This second facility was Barrack 41, Building XIIA, set up south of Barrack 42. Several documents exist about Barrack 41 which shed some light on its design, its construction and its purpose.
On June 19, 1942, SS-Sturmbannführer Lenzer, Chief of the Central Construction Inspection Office of the SS Economic-Administrative Main Office, forwarded to the Building Inspector of the Waffen-SS and Police of the General Government a May 27 request from Amt BII regarding the construction of a disinfestation facility for the Lublin Clothing Plant:
"In the aforementioned letter[] Amt BII submitted a request for the construction of a disinfestation facility as per the system of disinfestation with hydrogen cyanide.
As I intend to grant this request, considering its urgency, the appropriate Building Office is to be instructed to draw up and submit a construction proposal without delay. The local office of Amt BII is to be involved in this project.
According to information I have been given, the required furnace is available through Amt BII. This letter is to accompany the construction proposal as official recommendation.
Date for submission, June 30, 1942."
On June 27, 1942, the Chief of the Building Inspection of the Waffen-SS and Police for the General Government informed the Lublin Central Construction Office that the "preliminary design and cost estimate" for the disinfestation facility for the Lublin Clothing Plant would have to be submitted to him "as supplement to the preliminary design for the construction of the Fur and Clothing Works by July 10, 1942."
On July 10, 1942, the Chief of the Central Construction Office provided the Building Inspection of the Waffen-SS and Police for the General Government with the entire administrative documentation for the disinfestation facility, namely: official recommendation, explanatory report, planning draft A, cost estimate, ground plan 1:500, sketch of the delousing barrack. The accompanying letter stated:
"Enclosed as per the order of June 27, 1942, please find the supplement to the construction proposal for a disinfestation facility as Building XII in the Fur and Clothing Works of Lublin, to the amount of RM 70,000, with the request for review and provision of the financial and material means. The Polish contractors' prices were used as basis for the cost estimate."
Of the documents enclosed with this letter, the explanatory report and the cost estimate are the only ones to have survived; both were drawn up by Chief of the Central Construction Office on July 10, 1942. The first, reproduced in its entirety in the following, explained the purpose of this facility:
for the Construction of a Disinfestation Facility for the Fur and Clothing Works of Lublin.
For purposes of disinfesting the arriving items of fur and clothing, a disinfestation facility as per the diagram provided by the SS Economic-Administrative Main Office is to be built on the grounds of the Fur and Clothing Works of Lublin. As the enclosed diagram shows, the disinfestation chamber is to be constructed solidly with a ceiling of reinforced concrete. A so-called pole-support roof must be built above this delousing chamber. This pole-support roof is to be 60.0 x 18.0 m in size to allow the disinfested materials to be spread out and stored. The furnace as well as the remaining equipment is provided by Amt BII. Everything else follows from the Diagram."
The "Cost Estimate for the Construction of a Disinfestation Barrack for the Fur and Clothing Works of Lublin" is comprised of 27 sections and cites a sum total cost of 140,000 zloty. Section 18 reads:
"4 air-tight iron [sic] doors, delivered by the contractor and installed with the fitter's aid, including all work involved in calking and plasterwork."
The original project, of which a subsequent diagram has been preserved-namely, the August 1942 diagram "Prisoner-of-war Camp Lublin. Disinfestation Facility. Building XIIA," by the Central Construction Office-shows a rectangular block 10.76 × 8.64 × 2.45 m in size, containing two disinfestation chambers 10 m long, 3.75 m wide and 2 m high. Each chamber has two doors 0.95 m wide and 1.8 m high, located opposite each other in such a way that each of the shorter sides of the chambers included a pair of doors 3 m apart. Above the block with the two disinfestation chambers is a similarly rectangular pole-support roof of 18 × 60 m, which is divided down the middle into two halves of equal size, corresponding to the "contaminated" and the "clean" sections. Between the two doors of the disinfestation chamber on the smaller side of the "clean" sector, a coke-fuelled furnace is installed whose structure resembles the previously described Kori air heaters. The furnace is sunk 0.66 m; its lower part includes a trap door and a stoking door. Four steps lead down to it. Its upper part includes the pipe for drawing off the smoke. The furnace is connected to the two disinfestation chambers via two round openings of 35 cm diameter each. The latter are located sideways to the left and right of the wall dividing the two sectors, 33 cm away from this wall and 1.72 m above the floor. Since the disinfestation facility was operated with hydrogen cyanide, this furnace served to heat the air and to accelerate the circulation of the air-gas mixture.
The actual construction of the facility adhered to this plan, with the exception of the heating system: the central furnace described above was replaced by two air heaters manufactured by the Theodor Klein Maschinen- und Apparatebau company, headquartered in Knollstrasse 26 in Ludwigshafen. The Central Construction Office had ordered it on September 11, 1942. One of them was installed in front of the outside wall of the westward-facing delousing chamber described in the Soviet expert report as "Chamber III".
The Klein hot-air device was a coke-fueled air heater. It consisted of a stoking system underneath a heating chamber, within which a recuperator was installed. This recuperator was composed of a number of ridged vertical heating pipes connected to the stoking chamber below and to the air exhaust above.
A ventilator was installed in the heating chamber, and underneath the ventilator, beside the heating system, was a chamber out of which the pressurized-air pipe extended; in front of the ventilator was the opening of the ventilation pipe, which was equipped with a flap to regulate the air flow. Both pipes-pressurized-air and ventilation-were 31 cm in diameter and were connected via two round openings in the wall to the chamber where the air heater was installed. The system worked as follows: the smoke from the stoking chamber flowed through the recuperator pipes, giving off some of its heat in the process, and then escaped through the chimney. If the ventilator was operating, the air flowing through the ventilation pipe came into contact with the hot recuperator pipes, warmed up, and was pumped by the ventilator through the pressurized-air pipe and into the room. In this way a constant circulation of hot air was ensured. The air heater could produce 80,000 Kcal per hour; the air temperature was 120°C. Air temperature could be regulated with the air flap as well as with suitably timed additions of fresh outside air into the circulation system.
If the air temperature was kept low, the air heater served the same function as the DEGESCH circulation system for delousing with the hydrogen cyanide product Zyklon B.
J.-C. Pressac believes that the second hot-air device was installed in the other delousing chamber symmetrically to the first, but this hypothesis is incorrect since the east wall of this chamber, which was later subdivided into two sections, bears not so much as a trace of round openings for warm-air input and circulation. We shall return to this point in Section 3. A hot-air device similar to the one just described was installed in Building 20L of the Protective Detention Camp in Auschwitz in autumn of 1942.
On October 22, 1942, the Chief of the Building Administration sent the SS-Economist of the Higher SS and Police Chief in the General Government a progress report about the camp's various construction projects. The work in progress for the building project POW Camp Lublin included the construction of
"2 delousing barracks with baths, erected partly on wooden post supports and partly on solid foundations."
Regarding the building project of the Lublin Fur and Clothing Works, the report mentions the "construction of a disinfestation facility" among the jobs completed; the work still to be performed after November 1 included "installation of 4 disinfestation chambers". The disinfestation facility in question was the one installed beside Barrack 41, with two delousing chambers, i.e., Barrack XIIA.
From the Central Construction Office's aforementioned report about the "Completion, in %, of the Buildings on July 1, 1942", it follows that the two delousing barracks of the POW Camp Construction Project were Barracks 42 and 41. However, this document simply describes Barrack 41 as "Horse Stable Barrack with Shower Facility", which means that the delousing facility must have been set up there in the following months.
The November 18, 1942, cost estimate from the Polish company Michał Ochnik, Contractor, headquartered in Sliska Street 6/3, Lublin, refers to this facility:
for the Central Construction Office of the Waffen-SS and Police in Lublin, regarding commissions for the Fur and Clothing Works.
Brick construction of two chimneys in the gas chamber, dimensions 0.75 x 0.75 x 1.70, including cutting through the concrete ceilings.
Estimate, zl. [=zloty] 285.00."
The Central Construction Office accepted the company's offer, and the work was probably carried out in December. On January 8, 1943, Michał Ochnik submitted the following bill to the Central Construction Office, "for the Clothing Works of the Waffen-SS in Lublin":
For brick construction of chimney and connecting the draft pipes from two sides to the chimney in the gas chamber in the brick building. Cutting 2 openings in the concrete ceiling, brick construction of the chimney, dimensions 0.75 x 0.75 x 1.70.
Amount, zloty 285.00.
In words: two hundred eighty-five zloty."
In fact, the ceiling of the site mentioned still exhibits two openings 60 × 60 and 40 × 40 cm in size respectively, approximately 4 meters apart. According to the bill quoted, two pipes were installed in the two openings, which led to the central chimney 0.75 m in diameter and 1.70 m high.
Evidently the disinfestation facility of Building XIIA turned out to be insufficient for the Fur and Clothing Works' requirements, for, as mentioned previously, the Central Construction Office planned a further four disinfestation chambers for this construction project. Two civilian companies-the Lublin construction firm Michał Ochnik, which we already know, and the Warsaw firm "Polstephan" Construction Ltd.-were commissioned by the Central Construction Office with converting an existing building into a disinfestation facility. Both companies submitted a "Cost Estimate for the Construction of 4 Disinfestation Chambers in an Extant Building on the Grounds of the Former H.K.P.". The text of these two cost estimates is identical, and subdivided similarly into eight paragraphs, which indicates that it was drawn up by the Central Construction Office as a sort of form, with the column "Amount" being left blank; the two companies then completed this column with their cost estimates for the work specified in each paragraph. The November 7, 1942, estimate of the Ochnik company totaled 8,855 zloty, while that of "Polstephan", submitted on November 10, 1942, totaled 10,345 zloty. These two documents show that the four disinfestation chambers had to be outfitted with cast-iron doors, whose openings were to measure 0.83 × 1.93 m. Each chamber had to be connected to a "disinfestation furnace", also called "gas furnace", which was protected by a projecting roof. We do not know whether this set-up was ever put into effect.
Another document dating from this period is the November 12, 1942, "Registered Letter" from the Chief of the Central Construction Office to the Bernhard J. Goedecker company in Munich, touching on the "delivery of air heaters for delousing cells":
"With reference to the letter from the SS-Economist, Group C, Construction, Cracow, please find enclosed the 3 requested waybills for shipment of the 10 coal-fueled air heaters for delousing cells as ordered by the SS Economic-Administrative Main Office Berlin.
The Central Construction Office of the Waffen-SS and Police Lublin asks that you please proceed with shipment immediately upon receipt of the waybills, as these materials are urgently needed here."
The surviving documents do not allow any conclusions regarding which delousing cells these ten air heaters were destined for. All we know is that another two delousing barracks were planned for the Women's Camp. Their construction had been ordered on October 29, 1942, by the Chief of Amtsgruppe C of the SS Economic-Administrative Main Office, SS-Brigadeführer and Major General of the Waffen-SS Kammler. The Women's Camp was to be set up "on the grounds of the Clothing Works of the Waffen-SS Lublin". Building IX of the Women's Camp was to accommodate these two delousing facilities, whose cost had been estimated at RM 45,000. The project encountered serious difficulties and remained "on paper only" for fully nine months. In fact, the Chief of the Central Construction Office did not even send the "outline proposal for the construction of a Women's Concentration Camp" to the SS-Economist of the SS and Police Chiefs in the General Government until July 10, 1943. Only two of the documents enclosed with this letter have been preserved. "Construction Notice A" defines the camp's purpose as "housing for female inmates to be employed in the armaments factories" and refers to the list of buildings confirmed on November 20, 1942, by the Chief of the Central Construction Office, including Building IX with "2 delousing barracks". The "Explanatory Report on the Construction of a Women's Concentration Camp for 5,000 Inmates in Lublin" contains a precise description of the individual buildings. Regarding Building IX it states:
"Building IX-2 Delousing Chambers.
2 RAD [Reich Labor Service] barracks are set up and subdivided into disinfestation chambers for purposes of delousing the newly arrived inmates and for keeping articles of clothing clean. Equipment is provided by Amt BII but must be paid for from here. The foundation is a pile support. Exterior walls are similar to those of the other barracks."
Therefore it is certain that the aforementioned 10 air heaters were not intended for the Women's Camp. According to Zofia Murawska, this was brought into service on October 1, 1942, on Compound V of the Majdanek camp; two months later the women interned there were transferred to a new Women's Camp, which was being built approximately 500 m distant from Majdanek on the air field, but on February 22, 1943, they were again transferred, for a final time, to Majdanek. It is quite possible that Barrack 28 on Intermediate Compound I was converted into a disinfestation facility for this Women's Camp; in this case it would have replaced the two delousing barracks provided for in the airfield-camp project. It is also conceivable that it was divided into smaller subsections for this disinfestation facility, and that the 10 air heaters were intended for these; however, the description given by the Polish-Soviet Commission, and especially its sketch of this facility, is more indicative of a drying facility for the Laundry than of a delousing installation, since the air heaters were connected to the respective barrack subsections via only a single pipe-which means that they were not intended to provide circulation of hot air but only the constant input thereof: the hot air entered from the air heater and exited through the small opening in the ceiling. The air-tight lid made it possible to keep the hot air in the sub-chambers longer while the air heaters were off, for example when clothes were being dried overnight. The Polish-Soviet Commission partially confirms this interpretation: on its sketch of Majdanek it describes the barrack containing gas chambers V and VI as "suschilka"-drying facility.
Z. Łukaszkiewicz has published an undated sketch titled "Project for the Irrigation, Drainage and Water Supply Installation in the Building of the Gas Facility in Lublin", showing eight "gas chambers for Cyklon hydrocyanic acid" and six "gas chambers for Ventox"; it also shows a set-up for heating water. The installation designed by the Ludwig Rechkemmer company in Warsaw, for the "Central Construction Inspection of the Waffen-SS and Police Lublin", was never actually built.
3. Using the Gas Chambers to Kill Human Beings
In the previous section we have shown that contrary to the Polish-Soviet Commission's conclusions, the gas chambers of Majdanek were designed exclusively for purposes of hygiene and sanitation. Of course it is conceivable that they were restructured later to serve for the mass extermination of human beings. In this section we shall examine this possibility from a historical and technical perspective. In his reply to the Leuchter Report, Jean-Claude Pressac provided a detailed and at times quite astute analysis of the gas chambers of Majdanek, which is an excellent starting point for the discussion to follow. Pressac deals with the various facilities in the chronological order of their construction. We shall subdivide his arguments into sections, titled based on the numbering system used in the Polish-Soviet experts' report. The following table explains and summarizes this:
|Location and Description||
|Barrack 41, facility in the south-east||
|Barrack 41, facility in the north-east||
|Barrack 41, delousing chamber in the west||
|Barrack 41, delousing chamber in the east||
|Barrack 41, gas chamber beside the shower||
|Barrack 28, drying facility||
|Barrack 28, drying facility||
|Crematorium, facility between morgue and dissecting room||
|Barrack 41, cell south of chambers I and III||
a) Chambers V and VI and the "First Homicidal Gassings"
Regarding these two chambers, Pressac comments:
"The first so-called homicidal gas chambers, which were allegedly set up in a wooden barrack, were located on the Intermediate Compound (a strip of land between Compounds I and II). They were near a Laundry and the first Crematorium, which was also located in a wooden barrack with concrete floor and contained two mobile single-muffle furnaces, manufactured by the Berlin firm H. Kori and heated with heavy oil (fuel oil) [...]. The two gas chambers are said to have been operated partly with HCN, partly with CO. Later, it is said, they were converted into a drying room for clothing. Today the barrack in which they were located still exists,[] but it is off the route suggested to tourists. Evidently the Poles never searched for cyanide residue there.
In its present condition, the barrack has numerous windows, which would have made any homicidal gassings impossible. What is even more significant are the reports of the former camp inmates who claim that several dozen [approximate translation of "quelques dizaines"] sick inmates and emaciated 'Muslims', who were taken to the first crematorium daily at that time, were not in fact gassed but rather killed with blows to the neck with an iron bar. Probably these two improvised gas chambers served to delouse articles of clothing with Zyklon B (HCN). The facility's proximity to the Laundry is another argument in support of this interpretation."
As early as 1969, Józef Marszałek attempted to explain these inconsistencies. His resultant article served as the basis for Pressac's studies. Marszałek wrote:
"One problem remaining to be solved is that of the location of the entire chamber complex. It is odd that the chambers were joined to the Bath and not, as in Auschwitz-Birkenau for example, to the crematoria building. The chambers adjacent to the crematorium on the so-called Intermediate Compound I were not adequate to their task since there were too many witnesses to the homicidal gassings. The Laundry, where a considerable number of people worked, was also near the crematorium; the inmates arriving on Compounds I and II could also observe the camp authorities' criminal activities. And finally, the location of the chambers near or in the crematorium could have prompted the people marked for death to revolt. On the other hand, the location adjacent to the baths and the disinfestation chambers, which actually did serve that purpose, camouflaged their true purpose much better. The procedure of cutting the hair and bathing prior to gassing had a calming effect particularly on the new arrivals. This is exactly why the entrance to the bath was labeled 'Bath and Disinfection'. The short distance between the chambers and the crematorium (150 m) ensured that no major difficulties arose during transport of the bodies to the cremation furnaces."
Pressac was completely justified in drawing radical conclusions from these rather far-fetched attempts at an explanation. His arguments, which strike us as perfectly logical, can be supplemented with other, even more valid ones.
First of all, we note that the official literature does not even know the precise location of the first two alleged execution gas chambers! In his above-mentioned article, Marszałek contents himself with saying that they had been located on Intermediate Compound I; the reader is left in the dark as to anything else. In his later book Majdanek he touches on this matter again in his section The Gassing of Prisoners:
"The concrete gas chambers in Majdanek adapted for the use of Cyclone B, were opened in October 1942. Earlier, however, exploiting Auschwitz experience with the use of that gas for killing Soviet prisoners of war, gassing was begun in a makeshift chamber. Evidence thereof is offered by the efforts of the camp administration to obtain Cyclone B. On July 25, 1942, the administration applied to the Tesch und Stabenow Internationale Gesellschaft für Schädlingsbekämpfung (International Company for Pest Control), abbreviated toTesta and performing the function of an intermediary in supplying camps with poison gas, for the allotment of 1,474 cans of Cyclone B."
In the most extensive study of Majdanek, Czesław Rajca, discussing the so-called"direct extermination" of the inmates, writes:
"At the time the concrete [gas] chambers were completed-this was in October 1942-the inmates were being murdered in a gas chamber with Zyklon B, located near the Bath[] and probably [in original: "prawdopobnie"] in a barrack on Intermediate Compound I, which was also the location of the so-called small crematorium."
As source, Rajca cites an article by Adela Toniak about the deliveries of Zyklon to the Majdanek camp, but the cited page of this article merely states, without any sort of documentation:
"The first two gas chambers of the Majdanek camp were built in 1942 on Intermediate Compound I."
Z. Łukaszkiewicz is the only one to have specified the exact location of these two first gas chambers. He places them in the first crematorium:
"In May 1942, two gas chambers measuring 10 x 6 x 2 m are set up in a wooden barrack between Compounds 1 and 2. The chambers are intended for the use of Zyklon B. In June 1942 the first temporary crematorium, consisting of two separate furnaces, is set up in the same location."
On the camp plan which is appended to this article (on an unnumbered page), a barrack marked with a "J" is in fact described as "stare krematorium i komory"-old crematorium and (gas) chamber.
These claims are devoid of any historical foundation. As we have already shown, the old crematorium was located in a barrack (later torn down) southeast of the Laundry, while the two alleged homicidal gas chambers, according to the Polish-Soviet Commission, were located in Barrack 28, northwest, not southeast, of the Laundry. The barrack labeled "J" on the plan published by Łukaszkiewicz never had the same dimensions as the other barracks in the camp, and was only 15 m long.
The evidence supporting Pressac's view is rounded off by what is perhaps an even more compelling argument:
The aforementioned October 22 report of the Chief of the Central Construction Office only mentions the construction of "2 delousing barracks with baths". These barracks, the reader will recall, were Barracks 41 and 42. This means that as late as October 22 there was no gas chamber in the Barrack labeled "J", and consequently no gassings, of humans or anything else, can have taken place prior to that day. If delousing chambers were ever set up there at all, it was not until later.
Finally, where Marszałek's 'proof' is concerned, how one can conclude the existence of ahomicidal gas chamber merely from an order for Zyklon B remains a mystery.
b) Chambers I-III
Regarding these facilities, Pressac comments:
"The block of three homicidal gas chambers in the northeastern [actually: northwestern] extension of Section 'Bath and Disinfection I' has undergone interior and exterior modifications which one must reconstruct in order to understand its layout and its later functions.
Construction was begun in August 1942 and completed in September or October of that year. The block, whose intended dimensions were 10.60 x 8.64 x 2.40 m, was to contain two chambers for exterminating vermin. After completion, each measured 9.2 x 3.62 x 2.05 m inside, with a volume of 73m³.[] Disinfestation was done with dry, hot air which was produced by two furnaces supplied by the Ludwigshafen firm of Theodor Klein for a total price of RM 1,400.00. One was set up along the north wall [sic; actually: the east wall] of the block and heated the first section (which is arbitrarily labeled 'Section A' on the accompanying sketch).[] The other was installed along the south wall [actually: the west wall] and served to heat the second section (called 'Section B'). The temperature produced was 120 degrees Centigrade (the normal temperature for disinfestation in autoclaves), which required monitoring with a thermometer. The hot air was forced into the rooms by means of ventilators (one per furnace).
The block was at ground level. Its walls were of brick, the floor of cement and the ceiling of concrete. Each section, A and B, had two heavy, tightly sealing iron doors with peepholes in the east [actually: north] and west [actually: south] end. The west [actually: south] doors also had an opening where a thermometer could be inserted to check the temperature. The doors had been supplied by the Berlin firm Auert. The block, as well as the northeastern [actually: northwestern] extensions of the two barracks 'Bath and Disinfection' were protected against the elements by a large pole-support roof, 60 x 18 m in size and 4 or 5 m above the ground. At that time the facility was used for nothing other than disinfesting clothing with 120°C hot air, to which the clothing was exposed for half an hour. The pole-support roof made it possible to carry clothing back and forth between the block and the two barracks without exposing it to rain and snow. In the condition they were in at that time, Sections A and B can be compared to two enormous autoclaves.
Either because touching the doors, which were still blazing hot after a disinfestation cycle, was no doubt problematic, or because the furnaces failed to produce the desired temperature, this technique was abandoned, and replaced with clothing disinfestation with hydrogen cyanide gas (Zyklon B). The furnace mechanism was simplified to match the new method, since 30°C sufficed to effect the vaporization of the hydrogen cyanide gas. Therefore, the ventilators were dismantled.[] A man wearing a gas mask placed the Zyklon disks or granules on the floor of the chambers, and the doors were closed. After the product had served its purpose, the rooms were ventilated naturally, by opening the eastern [actually: the northern] and the western [actually: the southern] doors, which caused a cross-draft. The service personnel then either had to leave the building until ventilation was complete, or to resume their work wearing gas masks as soon as the gas concentration had thinned sufficiently. The fact that Sections A and B were used for disinfestation with HCN is readily proved by the phenomenon of the 'blue walls' (Prussian Blue). The color is even more intense than in the Disinfestation Facilities (Buildings 5 and 6) of Birkenau because hot air was admitted directly into the rooms (rather than these merely being heated from inside, as was the case in Birkenau). The blue discoloration spread to all the dividing walls of Section A as well as to part of those of Section B."
Pressac's interpretation lacks any and all historical foundation: as we have seen in the previous section, the delousing chambers of Barrack 41 had been designed "for the system of hydrogen cyanide disinfestation" from the start, so that the site was never converted from a hydrogen cyanide facility to a hot-air facility; if ever there was a conversion, then at most it went the other way around. We shall return to this point later.
J.-C. Pressac continues:
"One last renovation of the block resulted in the creation of gas chambers in which human beings were killed with carbon monoxide. There can be no doubt at all that this set-up served criminal purposes, for CO is fatal to warm-blooded creatures-and thus also to man-but utterly useless for combating lice.
Section B was subdivided into two identical rooms, which I call B1 and B2. Only B1 had a system for introducing CO. It consists of a perforated metal pipe running along three sides of the room, 30 cm above the floor. Initially it was connected to a steel bottle containing liquid CO. An external annex was added half-way along the western [actually: southern] side of the block. It contained two bottles of CO-the second for Section A [=Chamber III]-as well as a glass peephole protected by a grid. The gassing of the victims could be observed only in Room B1. No observation device was installed in Room B2. The ceiling of the two newly-created chambers each had an opening. The furnace which earlier had heated Room B [=Chamber IIIa] now no longer served a purpose; it was moved, and reinstalled on the south wall [actually: east wall] of Room C. The fact that Room B was subdivided only after it had already been used as a Zyklon B gas chamber is shown by the blue spots which cover its walls and of which one is separated into two parts by the dividing wall. The dividing wall itself has no blue discoloration.
Regarding section A, it too had a device for distributing CO; the carbon monoxide came from the second steel bottle in the annex. The set-up consists of a pipe (of a lesser diameter than that in Room B1) running along the south wall [actually: east wall] 30 cm above the floor. On either end of the pipe the gas flowed out through the perforated metal plates affixed in the corners of the room. There were no openings in the ceiling, and it was not possible to see into this room from the adjoining one.
It is difficult to say whether the rooms A, B1 and B2 were used as homicidal hydrogen cyanide gas chambers. This question remains open. In rooms B1 and B2, it is said, the Zyklon granules were poured in through the opening in the ceiling. As far as I know, no witness has ever claimed to have seen an SS-man climb a ladder up to the roof. In the absence of openings other than that in the ceiling, and the door, and also due to the lack of artificial ventilation, airing out these rooms measuring 36m³ each perforce took a long time.
Introducing the Zyklon B into room A posed problems which a historian at the Majdanek Museum has characterized as follows: 'The Zyklon was not thrown in through an opening in the ceiling, as in the previous chamber [B1], since there was no such opening. Instead, it was thrown in through the door just before the door was closed.' To be honest, it is difficult to imagine an SS man, wearing a gas mask and holding a can of Zyklon B in his hand, throwing the granules into the 30 cm headspace between his victims' heads and the ceiling (and, in the process, taking the chance of the pellets dropping outside the gas chamber) and then trying to slam the door, without this operation resulting in a desperate attempt by the victims to break out.
For these reasons I do not believe that Section A could have served for homicidal Zyklon B gassings. In rooms B1 and B2 this seems to have been technically possible, but it is unlikely that these facilities were really used for this purpose. Rather, it seems that the SS wanted to have two different carbon monoxide gas chambers (A and B1) that could be used for different numbers of victims: Chamber A (36m²) for groups of 250 to 350 people, Chamber B1 (18m²) for 125 to 175 people. These figures have repeatedly been mentioned by survivors giving the numerical strengths of the transports sent to the gas chambers. Finally, the openings in the ceilings of rooms B1 and B2 probably served to speed up ventilation rather than to input the Zyklon. This interpretation goes only for Room B1. In setting up the block for homicidal purposes, B2 seems to have had only a passive purpose as 'dead space', despite the opening in the ceiling.
During liberation, the pole-support roof which protected the block was damaged. The annex was empty. At first, Zyklon B cans had been stacked there in order to give the impression that their contents could be poured into the pipe of room B1 (instead of through the ceiling hatch). Five steel CO bottles were found in the camp. After their contents were analyzed chemically, two of them were put into the annex."
To summarize: Pressac considers it theoretically possible that Zyklon B was used to kill human beings, but he practically rules it out for Chamber III and considers it "unlikely" for Chambers I and II.
Here too we cannot help but second the French historian's expositions, and we would add another argument: if the camp authorities had wanted to use the two delousing chambers also, if not exclusively, for murdering people, they would have equipped both locales with an opening for introducing Zyklon B. On the other hand, the absence of an opening rules out any possibility that Chamber III was used for such a purpose-for the reasons given by Pressac. The existing openings in Chambers I and II are so small (26 × 26 cm and 29 × 33 cm respectively) that contrary to Pressac's opinion they could hardly have been an aid to ventilation. Furthermore, they were cut through the ceilings in a downright crude manner, especially in Chamber II where there is not even so much as a wooden frame for the hole. All indications are that these openings were hastily added for the Polish-Soviet Commission.
The following description of Chamber I by Constantino Simonov, a correspondent for the Soviet army paper Red Star who visited Majdanek right after liberation, is of great interest:
"But let us open the next door and enter the second disinfestation chamber, which has been built along completely different criteria. It is a square room, not much higher than two meters, and approximately 6 x 6 m in size. The walls, the ceiling, the floor-all are of gray, monotonous reinforced concrete. There is no rack for clothing such as we saw in the previous room: here, everything is bare and empty. A single large steel door hermetically seals the entrance to the room; it is closed from the outside with strong steel bolts. The walls of this reinforced-concrete crypt contain three openings: two of them are pipes entering from outside, the third is a porthole, a square little window barred by a large, thick steel grid solidly anchored in the reinforced concrete. The thick glass is on the outside so that it cannot be reached through the grid."
C. Simonov had just left Barrack 42, which he described as follows:
"Then we arrive at the chambers where the clothing taken from the inmates was disinfected. Pipes are affixed in the ceiling, and the disinfestation agent was introduced through these. Then they were closed off, the doors were sealed air-tight, and disinfestation proceeded. In fact, the barrack walls, constructed of wooden slats, and the doors, which were not lined with metal, were not nearly solid enough to have served for any purpose other than disinfesting clothing." (Emphasis added.)
So if Simonov mentions the openings in the ceiling of the disinfestation chambers in Barrack 42, but not the opening in Chamber I which he entered immediately thereafter, this can only mean that that opening did not yet exist at the time.
To summarize: the delousing chambers of Barrack 42, which are acknowledged to have served exclusively for disinfesting clothing, had openings in the ceiling for pouring in the Zyklon B, even though such openings were not absolutely necessary (the pellets could just as well have been thrown on the floor). On the other hand, Gas Chambers I and III of Barrack 41, which allegedly served only for killing people, were not equipped with any ceiling openings for introducing Zyklon, even though such openings would have been utterly, unequivocally necessary!
The next point to examine is the alleged restructuring of Chambers I and III to serve as homicidal CO gas chambers. Pressac has no doubts about their use for criminal purposes, but his certainty rests on a pure hypothesis: namely, that the facilities were in fact used for CO. Actually, the Polish-Soviet Commission's allegation that these rooms were used for gassing human beings with CO is not supported by so much as a single proof. On the contrary, two arguments speak against it: the first is based on a witness statement, the second on material evidence.
First of all, as Pressac rightly points out, there were no bottles in the cell outside Chambers I and III immediately after the camp's liberation-there were only cans of Zyklon B. These had been placed there by the newly liberated inmates to give the impression that people had been killed in these facilities by means of Zyklon B poured in through the pipes. We shall return to this in more detail in Section 4; for the moment, this statement will suffice.
Second, two of the five steel bottles which the Soviets found in Barrack 52 were later set up in Cell 14. According to the Polish-Soviet Commission's report, these five bottles had contained CO, but the two bottles presently stored in the cell are engraved with the label "CO2", i.e., carbon dioxide. It is common knowledge that carbon dioxide is not poisonous.
These plain and simple facts permit two conclusions: if two of the five CO bottles actually contained CO2, then for one thing it is logical to suspect that the Polish-Soviet Commission lied on this point-as it did in a number of other matters as well. Second, even if the other bottles had actually contained CO, there is still no proof that the facilities in question were really used for CO and not for CO2. This alone suffices to cast grave doubts on the alleged criminal purpose of these installations.
The Auer filter which the Commission discovered in the arsenal of chemicals closely matches the description of a CO filter, both in terms of its size as well as regarding its storage method. An expert on this subject writes:
"A common flaw in the various filters against CO is the noticeable hygroscopicity of the adsorbing substances: This results in a modification of the distribution of the filtering and adsorbing substances in the filters, in their limited usability in damp surroundings, as well as strict measures required to conserve the filters themselves in order to prevent their premature wearing-out as a result of dampness; prior to use, the filters are stored in a hermetically sealed box."
In the case of the filter here at issue, these rigorous measures seem to have been strictly enforced; it was stored in a hermetically sealed metal box bearing the following label:
"AUER, CO filter No. 09903. Not for use later than June 1944. Can be used for two years from the time of first use. No more than 40 hours total. First use:
Date: Use: Hours:
Note: After each use, close box tightly, top and bottom. Store in a cool dry place."
Since the spaces for "Date", "Use" and "Hours" were blank, one can assume that the filter was unused; the camp physician, who was in charge of storing the protective gear against gas, certainly would not have permitted use of the filter without recording the required data on the label.
On the other hand, the CO filter was polyvalent in nature and offered protection from other gases as well, such as ammonia, benzol, chlorine, phosgene, sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and carbon tetrachloride. It could even be used against hydrogen cyanide: the Degea CO filter could absorb 6 grams of HCN, the Dräger CO filter 3.3 grams. Thus, the mere presence of such a filter by no means proves that it was used for protection specifically against CO.
Historically as well, Pressac's hypothesis is flawed. He believes that the installation of the pipes in Chambers I and III was the last step, after the two locales had been used first as hot-air disinfestation chambers and then as Zyklon B disinfestation chambers. Yet the pipe fixed to the east wall of Chamber III is lined in its full length by plaster that is stained an intense blue, as though it had acted as a sort of catalyst for the formation of ferrocyanides. Chamber I, on the other hand, shows no traces of blue discoloration; in Chamber II, blue spots are to be found only on the east wall, between the door and the interior dividing wall in the middle as well as on the lower part of this dividing wall itself, in other words at the place where the pipe is located in the adjoining room.
From this we may conclude that HCN was used in Chamber III after the pipe was installed, while HCN was never used at all in Chamber IIIa: the spots of Prussian Blue are too small and are evident only in a few places in Chamber II, so that what we are seeing here is no doubt the phenomenon of diffusion of the Prussian Blue, similar to that which caused the formation of ferrocyanides on the exterior of the north wall. Chamber IIIa was subdivided into Chambers I and II even before the disinfestation facility was brought into service, which follows from the fact that the planned air heater was not installed.
All these points go to show that Pressac's hypothesis of the criminal use of these facilities proceeds from false premises, and is inexplicable from a purely technical perspective as well:
Even though they had two real hydrogen cyanide gas chambers which could have been converted to homicidal execution gas chambers merely by adding ceiling openings for the introduction of the Zyklon B, the SS allegedly hurried to install a method of gassing with CO-whatever for? If, as we are told, homicidal gassing with Zyklon B worked perfectly in Auschwitz, then why should the would-be murderers in Majdanek need to resort to CO?
From a technical perspective, Pressac's explanation-the subdivision of Chamber IIIa into two rooms to serve as gas chambers, one of which (measuring 17.1m²) was used to gas groups of 125-175 people, while the other (35.2m²) was used for groups of 250-350-is quite nonsensical. Not only would such a strategy have brought no advantages (groups of 125 to 175 victims could very well also have been murdered in the larger chamber, without any noteworthy waste of gas), it would also have added considerable difficulty to the gassing process. For one thing, the dividing wall inhibited the natural ventilation of Chambers I and II, which would have resulted from opening the doors on opposite sides of the room. For another, as Pressac himself must concede, Chamber II was reduced to a mere "dead space".
The small window in the south wall of Chamber I poses further insoluble problems. In its present state, it is locked by a grate, but there is no way to seal it hermetically. After the liberation of the camp, as both Simonov and the Polish-Soviet Commission report, it had a glass pane on the observer side in Cell 14. If this is correct, then the pane had not been initially installed, but rather was merely inserted into the window, for this window has no permanent frame or even fixative clamps for a frame. Thus, not only could the pane not be hermetically sealed, it could even be removed. Further, since the wall is only about 40 cm thick, the victims could easily have smashed it, since it is possible to pass a hand through the grate. And finally, if the point of the window had been to permit observation of the gassing victims, there is no indication why it should have been required for Chamber I but not for Chamber III.
Thus, we may rule out the use of CO. What remains to be explained is why the facility was altered at all. Given the lack of documents, we must make do with another hypothesis, albeit one far more plausible than Pressac's. Based on the fact that the two bottles contained CO2, and considering the time during which the alteration was performed, the following explanation seems the most likely:
As of July 1942 the camp's 'natural' mortality increased steadily, so that September already saw 2,431 deaths; in October this figure skyrocketed again, to 3,210. The "old crematorium" existing at that time only had two (oil-fueled) furnaces which could no longer handle the increasing number of bodies. Added to this was the lack of fuel oil which, as the Chief of the crematorium SS-Oberscharführer Erich Mußfeldt reported, ultimately resulted in the crematorium being closed in November 1942; admittedly this is contradicted by the Krone Report, according to which the facility was still operating in January 1943. As an aside, the Mortuary, Building XIV, was a semi-underground barrack of modest size, measuring only 11.50 × 6.50 m, and could hold only a limited number of bodies. Faced with this alarming situation, the Central Construction Office decided to convert the disinfestation facility beside Barrack 41 into two additional mortuaries, one of which (Chamber III) was temporary and the other (Chamber I) permanent. Thanks to the pipes, hooked up to two bottles of CO2, both rooms could be cooled to the desired temperatures. Further, CO2 has the ability to considerably retard oxidation processes and thus also the onset of decomposition in dead bodies.
When it was not required as temporary mortuary, Chamber III could be returned to its original purpose, namely HCN disinfestation, to which the strip of ferrocyanide pigment on the east wall along the entire pipe bears eloquent witness.
As for the little window in the south wall of Chamber I, when the bodies had to be removed it could have aided in airing out the locale, since the glass pane could be taken out. But there is nothing to prove that it already existed at the time the pipes were installed in Chambers I and III. Since Chambers I and III lost their auxiliary function as mortuaries when the new crematorium was opened in January 1944, they were no doubt assigned a new function. Given the chronic shortage of Zyklon B, Chamber III was probably used as a hot-air disinfestation chamber, which also made use of the air heater. Chamber I could well have been used as a store room for materials that required visual monitoring, for example weapons and ammunition.
c) Chamber IV
J.-C. Pressac writes:
"The sixth gas chamber (labeled C) is in the barrack 'Bath and Disinfection I', which was used primarily for showering. This locale is in the farthest northeast [actually: north] part of the building, beside the Shower. In the 1950s and 60s this proximity resulted in some unfortunate confusion because at that time the Shower itself was often portrayed as a homicidal gas chamber in which the poison came through the shower heads. Locale C has a surface area of 75m², a height of 2.90 m and a volume of 217m³. It was closed with two tight wooden doors (the model was similar to that used in the cells of Auschwitz-Birkenau). There were two openings in the ceiling; two more were in the south wall [actually: east wall], where a solid window at head level lit the room. After the delousing block was renovated as a homicidal gas chamber, the furnace of Room B was reassigned to Room C and reinstalled on the south wall [actually: east wall]. The fact that Room C was used intensively for delousing with hydrogen cyanide is shown by the unusually strong blue discoloration of its walls.
That this facility could have been used for homicidal purposes is conceivable only with two prerequisites: the removal of the window, which the victims would immediately have broken, and the installation of a mechanical ventilation system. After the delousing cycle, opening the two doors could have produced a cross-draft which would have spread gaseous poison to other parts of the barrack. For this reason it was vitally important to keep the door leading to the Shower closed. If ventilation had been restricted only to the two upper openings and the door, it would have taken a long time and been quite inefficient. If both doors were kept closed, the room could be aired out by pumping hot air into it (with the furnace's ventilator). This made the hydrogen cyanide gas lighter than air and thus able to escape through the two ceiling openings, after which it dissipated in the atmosphere. After a short time the remaining concentration of HCN was so low that the two doors could be safely opened, whereupon the resultant cross-draft dispersed the last traces of the gas and cooled the facility. Therefore, Locale C served as clothing delousing facility.
It could have become a most 'efficient' homicidal gas chamber if the window had been removed. Whether or not this window existed at the time of Majdanek's liberation is the deciding factor in the question of whether the locale could have been used to gas human beings; since I do not know the answer to this point, I must reserve judgement."
As we have seen in the previous section, Barrack 41 was originally constructed as a humble "horse stable barrack with shower", which was the function it still served on July 1, 1942. If one compares a sketch of its final state with the original plan for Barrack 42 ("Temporary Delousing Facility for Prisoner-of-war Camp Lublin" of March 31, 1942), one comes to the conclusion that the latter, except for the central portion that was used for delousing, was originally designed as the mirror image of the former and was to include the following sections (from north to south): Porch/Entrance, Registration, Hair cutting, Undressing room, Shower, Dressing room, Porch/Exit. This is also confirmed by the fact that the four main sections of the two buildings-Porch/Undressing room, Shower/Clothing return, Boiler room, Dressing room-have virtually identical measurements:
Dressing Room (Barrack 42)
Clothing distribution (Barrack 41)
In late September or early October 1942 a hydrogen cyanide gas chamber was set up in Barrack 41, with an air heater joined to the east wall. Work was completed on October 22, and the locale was called "Delousing barrack with bath". The area which had previously served as undressing room was used as gas chamber, without any extensive architectural modifications, which proves that it was a temporary facility. Chamber IV as it appears today has a very irregular shape, with two corners closed in on three sides (and therefore very difficult to ventilate) as well as an interior room equally difficult to air out. This room, which corresponds as mirror image to the haircutting room in Barrack 42, would have to have had a gas-tight door; it is a fact that it has blue spots on the ceiling and also on the plaster of the north wall. Similar spots are also to be found on the plaster of the south wall, in Chamber IV. Even more distinct blue spots appear on the plaster of the east wall, in the porch area.
Probably this gas chamber was difficult to air out, since the Central Construction Office decided to install a ventilation chimney on the roof, for which purpose it turned to the Polish company Michał Ochnik which we have already encountered before. The pertinent cost estimate of November 18, 1942, provided for the construction of two chimneys 0.75 × 0.75 × 1.70 m in size, with holes to be cut through the concrete ceiling. However, according to the invoice of January 8, 1943, only one chimney was actually built on the roof of the gas chamber; this chimney was connected "to 2 openings in the concrete ceiling via pipes on two sides". There is no doubt that this was a ventilation system; this already follows clearly from the fact that the two openings in the gas chamber roof were installed along the extended axis of the air heater suction pipe.
The gas chamber was not intended for homicidal purposes:
For one thing, the chimney as it is described on the aforementioned invoice from the Michał Ochnik company could not have been usedto introduce Zyklon B, because the HCN-soaked pellets would have landed on the floor of the chimney without getting into the two parallel pipes in the concrete ceiling. For another, while the gas-proof door on the south side (leading into the Shower) is closed from the outside, the one opposite it, on the north side, is closed from inside. This means that the disinfector who had to distribute the Zyklon B had to enter the area wearing a gas mask, close the north-side door, pour the Zyklon out of the can, leave the room through the south door, and close it from the Shower. In a homicidal gassing scenario it would not have been possible to open the north-side door due to the piles of bodies blocking it from within. Given Pressac's postulated number of victims per square meter, 520 to 729 people would have been gassed at one time in this 75m² (or 72.2m², according to the Polish-Soviet Commission) large room! But if only one of the two doors could be opened, ventilation would have taken forever.
Today, the two openings in the room's ceiling measure approximately 60 × 60 cm (eastern opening) and 40 × 40 cm (western opening). Both hatches open into a wooden shaft in which a small chimney of wooden slats is installed; it is closed off with a lid, also of wood, on the barrack roof. Measured from the room's ceiling, the two chimneys are approximately 1.15 m tall. Except for their size, their present condition reflects the project outlined in the cost estimate of November 18, 1942, meaning that the actual, original structure must have been altered later. This also follows from the fact that, in the room's interior, the wooden frames surrounding the openings interrupt the spots of Prussian Blue on the ceiling plaster. The plaster on many places around the frame was renewed, which is evident from its clean white color. And finally, not even the faintest trace of blue discoloration is evident on the frames themselves-quite unlike the window frames. This proves conclusively that the frames were installed at a time when Zyklon was no longer being used in this room. The presence of blue spots on the window frame, on the other hand, shows that this window already existed before the camp was liberated. Therefore Pressac's question, on which he hinges his verdict about the possibility of execution gassings in this room, is answered.
It is possible that the reasons for the modifications described were that the use of Zyklon B was discontinued and that delousing in Chamber IV was continued with hot air, for which purpose the air heater behind the east wall was used.
This hypothesis is supported by the constant shortage of Zyklon B, which was a severe hardship for the camp especially in the summer of 1943. At that time a devastating typhus epidemic was raging in Majdanek, and enormous quantities of Zyklon were needed "to disinfect the camp". The modifications described were most likely done during this time: since the meager quantities of Zyklon which the camp received were used to disinfest the barracks, the hydrogen cyanide disinfestation chambers III and IV were converted to hot-air delousing chambers.
This hypothesis, which explains the modifications of Chambers III and IIIa, also permits an explanation for the set-up of gas chamber IV. During the construction of the disinfestation facility, which had actually been intended for the Fur and Clothing Works, the Central Construction Office decided to use two rooms in the facility as additional mortuaries-one (Chamber I) permanently, the other (Chamber III) temporarily-which meant that the original Chamber IIIa could no longer be used for Zyklon B delousing. To make up for this loss, and to come up with a replacement for Chamber III which at times could not be used, another (temporary) hydrogen cyanide delousing chamber was installed at that time in Barrack 41; the surface area of this chamber corresponded more or less to those of Chambers III and IIIa. From an administrative and technical perspective, this was part of the Fur and Clothing Works, even if it did happen to be located in a building which was part of the POW camp construction project. Barrack 41 was chosen as site for the gas chamber because the disinfected clothing could easily be moved from there into the "clean" sector, under the protective roof located above the original disinfestation facility. Subsequently the Fur and Clothing Works were assigned a permanent installation in the form of a four-gas chamber delousing facility, which had already been designed on October 22, 1942, and which figured in the two cost estimates of November 7 and 10 of that year.
We remind the reader of SS-Hauptsturmführer Krone's January 20, 1943, report about the camp's "sanitary facility", in which Krone noted that the extant delousing, disinfection and bathing facilities sufficed for the time being but would no longer be adequate for the increase in population that was expected, which was why three larger disinfection facilities would shortly be shipped to Lublin.
This document shows that the camp administration's interests were in disinfestation facilities, not in gas chambers with which to murder people. The same goes for SS-Untersturmführer Birkigt's report which also touches on the inmates' physical cleanliness and on the disinfection facilities.
d) Chamber VII
Here too we shall begin with a quote from J.-C. Pressac:
"The seventh alleged execution gas chamber is located in the new crematorium, in which a massive complex of five Kori single-muffle furnaces is installed which could cremate approximately 300 (or 1,000, according to official sources) bodies per day in a 24-hour operation.[] The acting Director of the [Majdanek] Museum has informed this author that this gas chamber saw only little-really very, very little-use, which means, plainly speaking, that it was not used at all. This fiction is maintained in order to preserve the popular belief that a crematorium must necessarily have included a gas chamber (as for example the crematoria of Auschwitz-Birkenau).
Aside from this verbal information, the existence of a gas chamber is not alleged in any description of the interior features of the new crematorium, and with good reason, for the German plan of the building labels the room in question as a mortuary.
If anyone had wanted to kill human beings with Zyklon B in this locale, its enclave-like location inside the building-between the autopsy room, a corridor and the funeral parlor-would perforce have required an artificial ventilation system, of which, however, there is not a trace to be found. If one assumes natural ventilation by means of cross-draft, the entire crematorium would have to have been completely evacuated for a period whose duration is difficult to estimate."
Pressac is quite correct. This may be seen from the plan of the crematorium which the Polish-Soviet Commission drew up after an inspection of the facilities, and it also becomes apparent from first-hand examination of the "murder site". Chamber III, the room called the "gas chamber" ("komora gazowa"), is indeed located between the pre-dissection room (Locale 6) and the mortuary (Locale 4).
We would add the following observations of our own:
a) The walls of the room in question show not even the slightest trace of Prussian Blue;
b) The Polish-Soviet Commission did not see fit to mention the opening (26 × 26 cm) cut through the ceiling, whereas it certainly did consider those in Chambers I, II, IV, V and VI worthy of note. The opening in the room in question was added after the fact, in an extremely crude manner; the person/s making this alteration could not even be bothered to trim back the iron bars in the reinforced-concrete ceiling and to install a wooden chimney with a lid, such as in Chamber IV. Since the ceiling is 2.2 m above the floor, this would have resulted in the same problems during a homicidal gassing as Pressac indicates for Chamber III.
c) Two open peepholes are located in the dividing wall to the mortuary. The Polish-Soviet Commission discovered no mechanism with which to close them, so there surely was no such thing when the camp was liberated. Therefore, the gas would have spread to the mortuary and the incineration chamber during execution gassings.
The Commission was determined to find an execution gas chamber in the new crematorium at any cost, for if the camp administration had indeed planned a mass extermination of inmates, the sequence "gas chamber-mortuary-incineration chamber" would have been the most logical. Even though the new crematorium was constructed at a time when the gassings were allegedly already in full swing, the administration did not plan for any gas chamber for this building at all, neither for murder nor for disinfestation. And as if that were not enough: even though the camp administration had already planned the installation of a Kori furnace with five muffles at a time where according to Polish historiography the camp was not yet even supposed to become a death factory, the plans for precisely this Kori furnace were maintained unchanged after Majdanek's alleged conversion into a death camp, with not so much as a thought being given to increasing its cremation capacity! This proves conclusively that the camp administration did not foresee the enormous increase in mortality which a mass extermination would have involved.
Incidentally, in his report which we have already quoted several times, SS-Untersturmführer Birkigt clarified the direct relationship of the crematorium to the sanitary conditions in Majdanek by commenting, with regard to its expansion in order to take in up to 25,000 inmates:
"It seems important that the infirmary should receive its own disinfection facility, and that the crematorium also be transferred into the infirmary section if possible."
4. The Gas Chambers of Majdanek in Revisionist Literature
As we have noted in the introduction, the only Revisionists to have commented on the technical aspects of the alleged homicidal gas chambers of Majdanek are Fred A. Leuchter and Germar Rudolf.
On the occasion of his visit to Majdanek on March 2, 1988, Leuchter examined the new crematorium as well as the facilities known as "Bath and Disinfection I" in Barrack 41. He subsequently drew up his well-known Report in which he concluded that the facilities mentioned were "not suitable [...] for execution purposes", i.e., could not have been used to kill human beings. To support his thesis, Leuchter produces a number of arguments which Pressac assesses as follows:
"Here, Leuchter's historical incompetence becomes perfectly clear. [...] After the only scientific element of his investigation was omitted,[] Leuchter further dilutes the value of his comments by basing them on the current state of the facilities without taking into account the changes which were made to the buildings since liberation in order to protect them from the harmful effects of weathering. Leuchter stubbornly insists on his erroneous calculations, and has the crematoria explode as soon as he suspects the use of hydrogen cyanide in a morgue. Furthermore, he has neglected to make a complete visit to the camp, failing to pay any attention to one of the three gas chambers of the block in the north-east [actually: north] section of Barrack 41 (Bath and Delousing I). He has also neglected to study the model of the camp which would have enabled him to understand the original layout of the facilities he was to 'expertly assess'. He failed to consider the mobile Kori furnace (one of the two such furnaces in the first crematorium), which today is located in Barrack 50 of the Memorial Site. Since Leuchter's comments on the gas chambers and the new crematorium of Majdanek are negatively influenced by these omissions, errors, and oversights, they have lost any serious foundation and are devoid of value."
J.-C. Pressac's criticism is thoroughly justified. Leuchter claims that in the new crematorium "the furnaces are the only portion of the original facility which has not been rebuilt." If this were the case, it would mean that even the alleged gas chamber was reconstructed later, which is not so. Further, he believes that in a gassing scenario using Zyklon B in such a place, the gas would have reached the furnaces, killed the operating personnel, and caused an explosion that leveled the building, which is technically impossible.
Leuchter dismisses the possibility that Barrack 42 could have been used for criminal purposes-which no one has ever claimed anyhow. He reasons:
"For Bath and Disinfection #2, although closed, an inspection through the windows confirms its function was only a delousing facility, similar to those at Birkenau."
In fact, a look in through the windows permits no such conclusion.
Regarding Chamber IV, Leuchter notes the Prussian Blue on the walls and ceilings and hypothesizes that this might have been a "delousing room or storage room for deloused materials", but categorically dismisses the possibility that it was an execution chamber. The arguments he cites to support his thesis-lack of a chimney for ventilation, inadequate air circulation system, lack of air-tight gasketing of the doors-are not sound, for if this were the case, no Zyklon B could have been used in this facility at all, neither for execution nor for delousing. This in turn contradicts Leuchter's own statement that it might have been a delousing room, and is also disproved by the presence of the blue splotches that clearly indicate an intensive use of Zyklon B in this chamber.
In his discussion of Chamber III (which he calls #1), Leuchter advances even more implausible arguments. Though he certainly did notice the "characteristic blue ferric-ferro-cyanide staining" of the walls, he claims that this chamber was not designed to be used with HCN and rules out its use not only for homicidal purposes but even as a simple delousing chamber. But then what could explain the Prussian Blue on the walls? According to Leuchter, Chamber III could not even have been used for gassings with carbon monoxide since it would have been necessary "to pump in 4,000 parts per million (the lethal concentration) at a pressure of 2.5 atmospheres". Technically, this is nonsense.
Elsewhere, contradicting his own statements, Leuchter writes that this same room "is operational for carbon monoxide".
For Chamber I (which he calls #2), Leuchter considers that homicidal gassings with carbon monoxide would have been impossible because "the piping is incomplete" and "the vent has never been opened in the roof". The first argument is unclear, and the second is unfounded since the current roof was built after the end of the war.
Superficiality and ignorance of the historical starting point also mark the following comments about the block consisting of Chambers I, II and III, surrounded by a rainwater drainage ditch:
"A special characteristic of this complex is a depressed concrete walkway surrounding the chambers outside, on three sides. This is completely at odds with an intelligent handling of gas, since gas seepage would collect in this depressed ditch and, being protected against the wind, would not disperse. This would have made the entire area a death trap, especially given the use of HCN."
In actual fact this drainage ditch was built in response to a 1965 technical expert report by the engineer and architect T. Makarski in order to protect the delousing facility's foundations from dampness. Of course one cannot expect Leuchter to have known this, but his argument is untenable in chemical and technical respects as well: since HCN disperses readily, it is hard to see how such a ditch could have posed a danger.
Unlike Leuchter, Germar Rudolf never personally visited the alleged extermination facilities of Majdanek, and his critical analysis is partly based on photographs which we took in July 1992 and later put at his disposal. Rudolf published five of them in his article. In his "Critique of the Accounts" he also gave a schematic summary of some of the observations we made about our first visit to the camp, and in doing so added the occasional error. He gave particular attention to the retrospective addition of two openings in the ceiling of Chamber IV, which we had stressed, to the blue pigmentation of the window frame in the same room, and to the label "CO2" on the steel bottles in Cell 14.
G. Rudolf supplements these arguments with others which, however, pertain not to impossibilities but mere improbabilities, and some of these are historically inapplicable. For example, he writes:
"J. Marszałek recounts the Lublin Town Council's unsuccessful attempt to prevent the Majdanek Camp Administration from connecting the concentration camp to the town gas mains of Lublin. Thus, the camp had access to the highly toxic and CO-rich town gas, at a price of only a few pfennigs [cents] per cubic meter. Under these conditions, mass gassings with costly bottled CO are not believable."
But Rudolf evidently misread. Marszałek did not speak of the camp being connected to the municipal gas mains, but to the municipal sewer system.
Rudolf's subsequent argument is also based on a misunderstanding:
"The installation of hot-air blowers which allegedly blew hot air of 250°F into the chambers indicates that Rooms A and B were hot-air delousing chambers. Nobody would outfit an execution gas chamber with CO ducts for murder with carbon monoxide and hot-air blowers for murder with hot air and Zyklon B input holes for murder with hydrocyanic acid, to inflict upon his victims three kinds of death at once."
As we have shown in Section 2, Chambers A and B (=IV and V) were not designed as hot-air delousing chambers, but as Zyklon B gas chambers. No one has ever claimed that the two air heaters connected to these locales were used to murder people with hot air; rather, they clearly served to accelerate the evaporation of the hydrogen cyanide in Zyklon B delousings. Where Chamber III is concerned, speaking from a purely theoretical perspective there is no reason why a HCN gassing facility could not be replaced with a facility for CO (or vice versa); besides, this locale has no input hatch.
Rudolf's following hypothesis is possible, though rather unlikely:
"There were in fact some delousing methods where the gas was introduced via pressure cylinders (e.g. SO2). What is more, in a delousing chamber a window would not have been a problem."
In this case, the most effective kind of bottled gas would have been T-gas, a mix of approximately 10 parts ethylene oxide and 1 part carbonic acid, bottled and delivered in steel cylinders. The steel cylinders could be filled by first using one bottle ethylene oxide and then two bottles CO2, as per the model illustrated by Lenz and Gassner. Since there was, after all, at least one bottle of CO2 in the camp, this would also be a compelling explanation for the pipes installed in Chambers I and III-if there were not compelling chronological reasons why this cannot be the case.
Rudolf's most important argument is of a chemical nature:
"Finally, one must ask what might be the explanation for the high levels of cyanide present in the walls of Rooms A and B (Ill. 12), which are also readily apparent visually from the blue staining we have already encountered in the delousing chambers of Birkenau. There are two possible explanations:
a) The residue is the result of the few execution gassings with Zyklon B which are postulated for these chambers today. If this is the case, then the only explanation for the absence of any such residue in Auschwitz would be that no gassings took place there. All eyewitness testimony telling of homicidal gassings in these rooms in Auschwitz would therefore be false. This begs the question why the identical eyewitness testimony regarding Majdanek should then be true.
b) The residue is the result of disinfestations with Zyklon B. Therefore these rooms are not execution gas chambers for human beings, but rather delousing chambers. In other words, the witnesses for Majdanek did not tell the truth. This in turn begs the reciprocal question, why the witnesses should then have told the truth for Auschwitz."
"If the execution gas chambers of Majdanek existed, then those of Auschwitz cannot have existed, for the iron berlinate which one finds in Majdanek is absent in Auschwitz. But if there were no homicidal gas chambers in Auschwitz, in other words if all the eyewitness testimony affirming them is false, then who or what is there to prove the homicidal gas chambers of Majdanek existed at all?
And vice versa: if the execution gas chambers of Auschwitz existed, then those of Majdanek cannot have existed, for the iron berlinate which one finds in Majdanek could then only be explained by delousing chambers. But if there were no homicidal gas chambers in Auschwitz, in other words if all the eyewitness testimony affirming them is false, then what is there to prove the homicidal gas chambers of Auschwitz existed at all?"
But this seemingly flawless observation by Rudolf is shortchanged by the fact that a third possibility was ignored:
Since the two rooms were demonstrably designed and built as Zyklon B delousing chambers, there is no reason, from a strictly chemical perspective, why the Prussian Blue could not have been caused by delousing gassings and by homicidal gassings. If one were to proceed from this hypothesis, then from the point of view of chemistry homicidal gassings in Majdanek would by no means rule out the same in Auschwitz.
Of course one must not overlook the fact that media accounts in particular, and unfortunately court verdicts as well, often pretend that the descriptions and design plans of these facilities as delousing installations only served as camouflage. The historical manipulation hiding behind this strategy is aimed at preventing its consumers from coming up with the sort of critical thinking that might arise if it were generally known that Zyklon B delousing facilities were used intensively almost everywhere in the German concentration camps for the sake of protecting the inmates. In this respect, Rudolf's provocative thesis, which stands in crass contrast to the one-sided accounts of the media and all too often also of the legal system and of science and academia, at the very least provides food for thought and discussion.
The fragile nature of Revisionist arguments to date is largely due to the fact that so far the Revisionists have neglected the study of the concentration camp Majdanek just as reprehensibly as the orthodox western historians have done. Under these circumstances, the way in which the Revisionists have dealt with such a fundamental aspect of concentration camp history must perforce be superficial, and scientifically unsatisfying.
|||The "Communiqué" of the agency Polpress states:"Considering the fact that the Germans have committed mass murders and killings of Soviet prisoners of war, the Polish Committee of National Liberation turned to the Soviet government with the following suggestion: an Extraordinary Polish-Soviet Commission should be set up to investigate the German misdeeds in Lublin, and the Soviet Union itself should appoint representatives for this purpose." Text quoted in: Constantino Simonov, op. cit. (note 310), p. 18.|
|||GARF, 7021-107-9, pp. 229-243.|
|||See Document 5.|
|||See Documents 34 and 35.|
|||The section omitted here, which deals with the new Crematorium, is quoted in Chapter V. At this point we quote only those few lines that refer to "Gas Chamber VII".|
|||Misprint; read 3,750.|
|||Misprint; read 1,420.|
|||See Document 3a.|
|||See J. Marszałek, op. cit. (note 26), map on unnumbered page.|
|||See Document 28.|
|||APMM, sygn. 9a, v. 1, p. 1.|
|||This document has been lost.|
|||Disinfection was done with chemical substances dissolved in water. See Walter Dötzer, Entkeimung, Entseuchung und Entwesung, Arbeitsanweisungen für Klinik und Laboratorium des Hygiene-Instituts der Waffen-SS, Berlin. Published by SS-Standartenführer Ass't. Prof. Dr. Mrugowski. Berlin and Vienna: Verlag von Urban und Schwarzenberg, 1943, pp. 48ff.|
|||APMM, sygn. 9a, v. 1, p. 3.|
|||See Document 29.|
|||WAPL, Central Construction Office, 41, p. 5.|
|||See Document 30.|
|||This barrack is closed to tourists, but it is possible to look in through the windows.|
|||See Photograph VIII.|
|||See Photograph IX.|
|||WAPL, Central Construction Office, 8, p. 3.|
|||Amt C/V, Central Construction Inspection.|
|||WAPL, Central Construction Office, 141, p. 3.|
|||This refers to the May 27, 1942 letter from Amt BIII.|
|||Ibid., p. 4.|
|||Ibid., p. 2.|
|||Ibid., p. 5.|
|||Ibid., pp. 7f.|
|||See Document 31.|
|||The dimensions of the various rooms were also modified slightly: the Commission speaks of 9.70 × 3.70 m, whereas the Polish reports give the measurements as 9.27 × 3.80 m.|
|||J. Marszałek, op. cit. (note 81), p. 53, his note 117.|
|||For practical reasons I have adopted the room numbering system used in the Polish-Soviet report; the southward-facing delousing chamber is Chamber IIIa. See Table on page 87.|
|||Instytut Techniki Cieplnej. Ekspertyza dotycząca konstrukcji i przeznaczenia pieców zainstalowanych przy komorach gazowych w Obozie na Majdanku w Lublinie, Lódz, 1968. APMM.|
|||See further on.|
|||Henceforth this locale will be referred to as Chamber IIIa.|
|||TCIDK, 502-1-332, p. 46.|
|||WAPL, Central Construction Office, 8, p. 22.|
|||Ibid., 145, p. 13. See Document 32.|
|||Ibid., p. 14.|
|||Probably Heereskraftfahrpark - army vehicle pound.|
|||WAPL, Central Construction Office, 145, pp. 1f.|
|||Ibid., pp. 5f.|
|||Ibid., Sections 1, 3, 4 and 7.|
|||Ibid., 12, p. 85.|
|||Ibid., 95, p. 3. Letter from Kammler to the Higher SS and Police Chief in the General Government, SS-Economist Building Group.|
|||Ibid., p. 8. Building distribution for the establishment of a Women's Camp in Lublin, drawn up on November 20, 1942 by the Chief of the Central Construction Office.|
|||Ibid., 96, p. 2.|
|||Ibid., pp. 10f.|
|||Ibid., p. 14.|
|||Zofia Murawska, "Kobiety w obozie koncentracyjnym na Majdanku," in: ZM, IV, 1969, pp. 94-97. Cf. the information given in this regard in Chapter I.|
|||See Documents 34 and 35.|
|||See Photograph X.|
|||See Document 33.|
|||The plan published by Łukaszkiewicz is cut in half; the left half is reproduced below the right. The division into two halves is not precise, and the left part includes a section of the diagram shown on the right part. Łukaszkiewicz failed to notice this inexactitude, and arrived at a total of 12 Zyklon B gas chambers rather than 8; he also specified the former number in the diagram's subtitle.|
|||Incorrect term for the "Central Construction Office of the Waffen-SS and Police Lublin".|
|||J.-C. Pressac, op. cit. (note 14), p. VII.|
|||This is an error. Barrack 28 no longer exists. Presumably Pressac confused it with another.|
|||J. Marszałek, op. cit. (note 81), pp. 54f.|
|||The 150 m distance from the alleged gas chambers would have exacerbated the problems mentioned by Marszałek: due to the proximity to Barrack 42 (delousing facility with baths), which all inmates admitted to the camp had to go through, all new arrivals would have been potential witnesses to the homicidal gassings!|
|||J. Marszałek, op. cit. (note 209), p. 140.|
|||C. Rajca, "Eksterminacja bespośrednia," in: T. Mencel, op. cit. (note 23), p. 270.|
|||The author is confusing the Bath with the Laundry.|
|||Adela Toniak, "Korespondencja w sprawie dostawy gazu cyklonu B do obozu na Majdanku" (Correspondence regarding the shipment of Zyklon B gas to the Majdanek camp), in: ZM, II, 1967, pp. 129-170.|
|||Ibid., p. 130.|
|||Z. Łukaszkiewicz, op. cit. (note 10), p. 66.|
|||See Document 6.|
|||See Chapter V.|
|||See Photographs III and IV.|
|||This follows from the aforementioned Chief of the Central Construction Office's October 1942 report, which only mentions the construction of "2 delousing barracks with baths"; as we saw in the previous section, these were Barracks 41 and 42.|
|||J.-C. Pressac, op. cit. (note 14), pp. VII, VIII.|
|||The bearings given by Pressac are wrong.|
|||The two facilities originally measured 9.27 × 3.80 × 2 = 70.45m3. The dimensions given by Pressac indicate a volume of 68.27m3.|
|||See Document 36.|
|||Actually this was not done until after the camp was liberated, when everything that could still be used was dismantled.|
|||Ibid., pp. VIII, IX.|
|||See Photograph XI.|
|||See Photograph XII.|
|||C. Simonov, op. cit. (note 310), p. 8.|
|||"Dr. Pater Victoria Kohlensäurefabrik Nußdorf Nr 6196 Full. 10 Kg [...] und Fluid Warszawa Kohlensäure [...] Fluid Warszawa Lukowski. Pleschen 10,1 kg CO2 Gepr." (The inscriptions are only partly legible.)|
|||This suspicion is all the more well-founded in that the other three bottles are no longer to be found on the camp grounds. We do not know where they may have got to.|
|||Cap. Dott. Attilio Izzo, Guerra chimica e difesa antigas, Milan: Editore Ulrico Hoepli, 1935, p. 183.|
|||Ferdinand Flury, Franz Zernik, Schädliche Gase, Dämpfe, Nebel, Rauch- und Staubarten, Berlin: Verlag Julius Springer, 1931, p. 617.|
|||See Photograph XIII.|
|||See Photograph XIV.|
|||This is even more noticeable on the outside walls of the disinfestation chambers of Buildings 5a and 5b in Birkenau.|
|||In both cases, for the facilities mentioned, Pressac inexplicably assumes a maximum capacity of 9.72 people per square meter! In comparison, the Polish-Soviet Commission contented itself with 6 victims per square meter.|
|||See Photograph XV.|
|||See Chapter IV.|
|||See Chapter V.|
|||On July 1, 1942, work on this building was already 70% complete. WAPL, Central Construction Office, 8, p. 3.|
|||These dimensions follow from the corresponding plan: POW Camp Lublin, Mortuary, Bldg. XIV, scale 1:100. Ibid., 47, p. 14.|
|||The expansion of compressed and liquefied gases causes a decrease in ambient temperature.|
|||The door of Chamber III has an opening where a thermometer could be inserted.|
|||J.-C. Pressac, op. cit. (note 14), p. IX.|
|||See Photographs XVI and XVIa.|
|||See Photograph XVII.|
|||See Photograph XVIII.|
|||See Photograph XIX.|
|||See Photograph XX. This was pointed out by C. Mattogno after his first visit to Majdanek in July 1992. Cf. the discussion by G. Rudolf, whom Mattogno gave access to his documents, in his article, op. cit. (note 15).|
|||See Chapter VIII.|
|||Of course these two mortuaries became superfluous when the new crematorium was completed.|
|||See Chapter III.|
|||J.-C. Pressac, op. cit. (note 14), p. IX.|
|||The actual capacity was perhaps one hundred bodies per day; see Chapter V.|
|||See Document 25.|
|||See Photograph XXI.|
|||See Photograph XXII.|
|||See Chapter III.|
|||The date is given by Leuchter himself in his article "The Leuchter Report: The How and the Why". This article was published in The Journal of Historical Review, no. 2, 1989, pp. 135-137.|
|||Fred A. Leuchter, op. cit. (note 13), 12.002.|
|||J.-C. Pressac, op. cit. (note 14), p. VII.|
|||This refers to samples of mortar taken from the brickwork of the facilities described as gas chambers. Leuchter was able to take such samples in Auschwitz I and Birkenau, but not in Majdanek.|
|||Regarding the explosiveness of hydrogen cyanide gas, cf. Carlo Mattogno, Olocausto: dilettanti allo sbaraglio, Salerno: Edizioni di Ar, 1996, pp. 212-215.|
|||Leuchter, op. cit. (note 13), 17.001.|
|||Ibid., 12.003 and 17.002.|
|||One atmosphere corresponds to a pressure of 10,333 kg/m2, 2.5 atmospheres to 25,825 kg/m2. Therefore, the pressure exerted on each of the two doors of Chamber III (their surface area was 1.90m2) would have been approximately 49,000 kg, which would simply have blasted them off their hinges!|
|||Ibid., 12.006; retranslation from the German edition.|
|||T. Makarski, Orzeczenie techniczne sposobu zabezspieczenia i konserwacji (Technical report on the manner of protection and conservation), June 1965, p. 4. APMM, Pracownie Konserwacji i Zabytków, No. zlec. 8735/W-1.|
|||Op. cit. (note 15), Photographs 13 on p. 276 and 14 through 17 on p. 278.|
|||Ibid., pp. 277f.|
|||J. Marszałek, op. cit. (note 209), p. 35.|
|||Otto Lenz, Ludwig Gassner, Schädlingsbekämpfung mit hochgiftigen Stoffen, issue 2: Aethylenoxyd (T-Gas). Berlin: Verlagsbuchhandlung Richard Schoezt, 1934, pp. 17-19.|
|||G. Rudolf, E. Gauss, op. cit. (note 15), p. 279.|
|||For example, G. Rudolf, ibid., p. 125, footnote 125, rightly points out that the accused who testified that the alleged "gas chambers" were only delousing chambers incurred the wrath of the Court. Cf. Chapter X.2, this volume.|
|||And that was probably also its purpose; pers. comm. G. Rudolf.|
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