GAS CHAMBERS

 

The most efficient method to kill people was gassing them. Therefore, the SS used the hydro-cyanic acid compound "Cyclone B" which evaporated at body temperature in a hermetically sealed room and led to death from suffocation within a very short time.

First attempts to kill with gas took place in September 1941 in the arrest cells of block 11 at Auschwitz I, the main camp. Then, the mortuary at crematory I was used as gas chamber. For lack of secrecy and the limited efficiency of crematory I, the SS went to Birkenau and reconstructed two farmhouses in the wood into gas chambers. The bodies were brought over narrow-gage railway tracks to pits, some hundred metres of distance, where they were first buried, but dug out again in the fall of 1942 and burnt.

Since also the provisional plants were not sufficient, the construction of the four big crematories started in July 1942 which were put into operation between March and June 1943. These extermination plants had to be built by prisoners themselves.

Within those crematories, all stations of the extermination process were geographically centralized and mechanized. Each station had undress rooms, gas chambers and ovens to incinerate the bodies.

Auschwitz I - main camp

extermination plants

in action

Crematorium I

gas chamber, three ovens for 340 bodies

early 1942 till spring 1943

Auschwitz II -
Birkenau

extermination plants

in action

Bunker I

Two gas chamber for 800 people, undress rooms, mass graves

1942

Bunker II

Four gas chambers for 1.200 people, undress rooms,

1942; reconstructed spring 1944 and used as reserve during daytime

Crematorium II

Subterranean gas chamber for up to 3.000 people, surface five ovens for daily 1.440 bodies

March 1943 till November 1944

Crematorium III

Subterranean gas chamber for up to 3.000 people, surface five ovens for daily 1.440 bodies

June 1943 till November 1944

Crematorium IV

4 gas chambers surface for some 3.000 people, two ovens for 768 bodies daily

since March 1943, destroyed by inmates on Oct. 7, 1944

Crematorium V

4 gas chambers surface for some 3.000 people, two ovens for 768 bodies daily

April 1943 till November 1944

According to technical calculations, 4.756 bodies could be burnt in the crematories. But this was just a theoretical factor, which inluded the time for maintenance and purge of the fire-places. Practically, up to 5.000 bodies were burnt in the crematories II and III every day, 3.000 in crematorium IV and V. The capacities of the funeral piles at the bunkers was unlimited. In summer of 1944, during the deportation of Hungarian Jews, the SS put bunker II into operation again. At this time, up to 24.000 people could be killed and burnt.

The ashes of the dead were used as fertilizer on the surrounding fields, to dry swamps or they were just scattered out into rivers and lakes around the camp.