You can read the story of Holocaust survivor Helga Weiss in full here. Helga has just published the journal that she kept for four years while she was imprisoned in several Nazi concentration camps.
Helga was born in 1929 and her story parallels that of Anne Frank, who was also born in 1929, except that Helga’s family did not go into hiding. Helga was sent to Theresienstadt, now known as Terezin, where Anne Frank’s family would have been sent, had they not gone into hiding.
This quote from the news article about Helga caught my attention:
Then in April 1945 they were moved by rail to Mauthausen in Austria. It took 16 days – so long the camp was out of killer gas.
After being sent to Theresienstadt, where she stayed in the children’s barracks for several years, Helga was sent with her mother to Auschwitz, and from there to Freiberg, which was a sub-camp of the Flossenbürg concentration camp. In the last days of the war, the Flossenbürg camp was evacuated and some of the prisoners were sent to the Mauthausen camp in Austria.
Helga was lucky. She survived because the Mauthausen gas chamber was out of “killer gas” in April 1945. But is this true? Not according to the Mauthausen Memorial Site. The photo below shows a sign that was inside the gas chamber in May 2003 when I took the photo.
Sign inside the Mauthausen gas chamber
The sign, shown in the photo above, indicates that the gas chamber at Mauthausen was in operation until April 29, 1945. The sign mentions that Cyclon B gas (the killer gas) was being used until April 29, 1945.
The plaque shown in the photo above was in the gas chamber in May 2003. In April 1989, there was a different sign with slightly different wording.
The English version of the sign in 1989 was as follows:
The gas chamber was camouflaged as a bathroom by sham showers and waterpipes. Cyclone B gas was sucked in and exchanged through a shaft (situated in the corner on the right) from the operating room into the gas chamber. The gas-conduit was removed shortly before liberation on April 4th, 1945.
Note that, in 1989, the date given for the removal of the gassing apparatus was April 4, 1945. In May 2003, the sign in the gas chamber gave the date of removal as April 29, 1945. So Helga was brought to Mauthausen after April 4, 1945 and there was no gas chamber at that time. The sign had to be changed because Ludwig Haider was gassed AFTER April 4, 1945.
The photo below shows a memorial plaque for Ludwig Haider who was gassed on April 23, 1945, less than two weeks before the camp was liberated on May 5, 1945. At the time that Ludwig Haider was gassed, a Red Cross representative was in the camp and selected prisoners were being evacuated to neutral countries, but in spite of this, the gassing continued right up to the end.
Memorial for Ludwig Haider who was gassed at Mauthausen on April 23, 1945
So it seems that the Nazis had NOT run out of “killer gas” at Mauthausen. But what about Auschwitz? Helga was sent from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz; why wasn’t she gassed at Auschwitz?
This quote, from the news article about Helga Weiss, tells about an incident where children at Auschwitz, who were being taken to the gas chamber, escaped and ran into Helga’s barracks:
The teenager [Helga] could hear the guards’ hobnail boots heading towards the hut [barracks] and froze in terror.
She wrote in her diary: “They’re coming! They saw the children running to us! They’ll shoot all of us. It’s the end!”
She says: “I hugged Mum and started to pray, ‘God, if I must die, let Mum and me die together. Don’t leave me alone here.
“Although I don’t want to die – let Mum and me survive’.”
And they did. From Auschwitz they were sent to Freiberg [sub-camp of Flossenbürg] in Germany as slave labour.
So Helga was writing in her journal at the exact time that a group of children were being taken to the Auschwitz gas chamber? What did the guards say when they burst in and found Helga recording this event in her journal? “Oh, excuse us; we didn’t mean to interrupt your writing. Carry on; we will come back another day to take the children to the gas chamber.”
By this time, Helga was exempt from the Auschwitz gas chamber because she was 15 years old. Anne Frank was not gassed at Auschwitz because she was over 15 years old. Anne was sent on to Bergen-Belsen. Helga was also sent to Bergen-Belsen, where she survived the typhus epidemic, only to be sent to Mauthausen to be gassed in the last days of the war, even though she was over 15 at that point.
What? You don’t believe that there was a gas chamber at Mauthausen? Oh, ye of little faith. I have two pages of gas chamber testimony on my website, starting here. I will have to add Helga’s testimony to the list.