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April 24, 2010

The gas chamber disguised as a shower room in the crematorium at Dachau

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 2:47 pm

There is a room in the crematorium building at the former Dachau concentration camp that has some resemblance to a shower room, but it is usually referred to as a gas chamber, disguised as a shower room. Assuming that the room is a gas chamber, it makes perfect sense that a gas chamber would be located right next to the morgue where bodies were stored before being cremated.  But assuming that this room was not a gas chamber, why was there a shower room in the Dachau crematorium building?  After all, there was a perfectly good shower room in the building which now houses the Museum at the Dachau memorial site.

Baracke X, the crematorium building at Dachau

Gas chamber disguised as a shower room at Dachau

Morgue room next to the Dachau gas chamber, April 1945

Dr. Miklos Nyiszli, a prisoner, who worked as a pathologist in one of the four crematoria at Auschwitz, wrote a book entitled Auschwitz, a Doctor’s Eyewitness Account.

Here is a quote from his book:

“Those who worked with corpses had to wash frequently, so showers were mandatory twice a day, a regulation to which we all gladly submitted.”

The German people are noted for being obsessively clean, so it makes perfect sense that the German staff at Auschwitz and at Dachau would have required the crematory workers to take frequent showers.

When the American liberators arrived at Dachau, they saw a sign in the oven room of the crematorium, which read “Reinlichkeit is hier Pflight deshalb Hände waschen nicht vergessen.” In English, this means “Cleanliness is a duty here, therefore don’t forget to wash your hands.”

The sign, which was formerly on the wall behind the ovens in the crematorium, has been painted over, and can no longer be seen today.

The photo below shows a green door behind the ovens. This door leads into a hallway that runs behind the gas chamber and the oven room. There might be a washroom in the area behind the green door, which is off limits to tourists.  In that case, there would have been no need for a shower room in the crematorium.

Cremation ovens in the Dachau crematorium

The hallway behind the ovens is shown on the left

The 1945 photo above shows the green door behind the ovens in the open position; you can see a glimpse of the hallway which visitors are not allowed to enter today.

The US Seventh Army published a book immediately after the liberation of Dachau, with the title: Dachau Liberated, The Official Report by The U.S. Seventh Army. According to this official report, there was a total of 29,138 Jews brought to Dachau from other camps between June 20, 1944 and November 23, 1944. This report says the Jews were brought to Dachau to be executed and that they were gassed in the gas chamber disguised as a shower room and also in the four smaller gas chambers, which the staff at the Dachau Memorial Site now admits, are delousing chambers.

By November 1945, it was known that the 29,138 Jews brought to Dachau from other camps between June 20, 1944 and November 23, 1944 had been transferred to the eleven Kaufering sub-camps of Dachau to work in munitions factories. It seems that the inmates, who had told the US Army investigators that these prisoners had been gassed, were wrong. These 29,138 Jews were not gassed, but rather were given a shower in the “gas chamber” before being transferred to the 11 Kaufering sub-camps.

Could the Dachau gas chamber/shower room have been a dual purpose room where prisoners could be gassed, but could also take a shower? I don’t think so.  The gas that was allegedly used in all the Nazi gas chambers was Zyklon-B, which was in the form of pellets that could not go through the tiny holes in the shower heads.

Marcus J. Smith wrote a book entitled The Harrowing of Hell in which he said that there was disagreement among the Dachau survivors, regarding the gas chamber. Here is a quote from his book:

“There are conflicting stories as to the use of the gas chamber. An Albanian tells me that it was used only four times since 1942, but a Pole says that it was never used during that time. Another Pole reports that 100 or 150 people were put to death each day in the chamber. A Yugoslav says that thousands were gassed in the last three years. A Frenchman believes that the chamber has never been used. Dr. Franz Blaha, A Czech physician inmate, a member of the IPC, and a valuable source of information about medical conditions in the camp, believes that the gas chamber was used many times.”

Dr. Franz Blaha, a prisoner at Dachau, gave a sworn affidavit to US Army Col. David Chavez on May 3, 1945, the same day that the film footage of the gas chamber, that was shown at the Nuremberg IMT, was made.  Dr. Blaha’s affidavit was entered into the proceedings of the Nuremberg IMT, but he never took the witness stand.

At the Nuremberg IMT, Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen, an SS judge, testified for the defense for two days. Quoted below is his testimony at Nuremberg on 8 August 1946, regarding the Dachau gas chamber:

Q. […]  Then you contradict the testimony of the witness Doctor Blaha, which was made the subject of evidence here. Do you know his testimony?

A. I read the testimony of Doctor Blaha in the Press, and here I had the opportunity to look through the record of the trial. I must say that this testimony amazes me. I am of the opinion that Blaha, from his own knowledge, cannot make such statements. It is not true that prisoners in a concentration camp can move about freely and have access to the different sections and installations.

In November 1945, at the Nuremberg IMT, three members of the American prosecution team provided sworn affidavits, testifying to the existence of lethal gas chambers at the Dachau concentration camp. The affidavits were signed by James B. Donovan, Lt. Col. Calvin A. Behle of the Judge Advocate General’s Department and Lt. Hugh C. Daly of the 42nd Rainbow Division of the US Seventh Army which liberated Dachau. The affidavits were included in Nuremberg Document 2430-PS which was read in court, but Donovan, Behle and Daly were not present and the defense had no opportunity to cross-examine them.

Although there was testimony from eye-witnesses about the gas chamber at Dachau at the Nuremberg IMT, the gas chamber at Dachau was not mentioned in the judgment at Nuremberg.

On May 1, 1945, a group of US Congressmen arrived at Dachau and toured the gas chamber building.

The Congressmen described the Dachau gas chamber in “Document No. 47 of the 79th Congress, 1st Session, Senate Report (May 15, 1945) of the Committee Requested by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower to the Congress of the U.S. relative to Atrocities and other Conditions in Concentration Camps in Germany.” This document was entered into the Nuremberg trial proceedings as IMT Document L-159, but the Congressmen did not testify.

The following quote is from Document No. 47 written by the US Congressmen:

“The gas chamber was located in the center of a large room in the crematory building. It was built of concrete. Its dimensions were about 20 by 20 feet, and the ceiling was some 10 feet in height. In two opposite walls of the chamber were airtight doors through which condemned prisoners could be taken into the chamber for execution and removed after execution. The supply of gas into the chamber was controlled by means of two valves on one of the outer walls, and beneath the valves was a small glass-covered peephole through which the operator could watch the victims die. The gas was let into the chamber through pipes terminating in perforated brass fixtures set into the ceiling. The chamber was of size sufficient to execute probably a hundred men at one time.”

The problem with the Congressmen’s report is that the ceiling of the gas chamber, as seen today, is 7.6 feet high, and no “pipes terminating in perforated brass fixtures”  can be seen. Are the “pipes terminating in perforated brass fixtures” hidden by a new ceiling that was added after May 1, 1945?

The photo below, taken in the Mauthausen gas chamber, shows what pipes, terminating in perforated fixtures would have looked like.

Water pipes terminating in perforated fixtures in the Mauthausen gas chamber

In May 2001, I photographed the one remaining shower head in the Dachau gas chamber, which was made of sheet metal, not brass.  How could the Congressmen have seen things that were not there?  Insanity is defined as seeing things that are not there.  Were these Congressmen all crazy?

The one remaining shower head at Dachau in 2001 was not made of brass

The following is a quote from a 1945 report by the OSS Section, US Seventh Army, entitled Dachau Concentration Camp, with a foreword written by Col. William W. Quinn:

“GAS CHAMBERS: the internees who were brought to Camp Dachau for the sole purpose of being executed were in most cases Jews and Russians. They were brought into the compound, lined up near the gas chambers, and were screened in a similar manner as internees who came to Dachau for imprisonment. Then they were marched to a room and told to undress. Everyone was given a towel and a piece of soap, as though they were about to take a shower. During this whole screening process, no hint was ever given that they were to be executed, for the routine was similar upon the arrival of all internees at the camp. Then they entered the gas chamber. Over the entrance, in large black letters, was written “Brause Bad” (showers). There were about 15 shower faucets suspended from the ceiling from which gas was then released. There was one large chamber, capacity of which was 200, and five smaller gas chambers, capacity of each being 50. It took approximately 10 minutes for the execution. From the gas chamber, the door led to the Krematory to which the bodies were removed by internees who were selected for the job. The dead bodies were then placed in 5 furnaces, two or three bodies at a time.”

Pipe goes through the wall of the undressing room into the Dachau gas chamber

The two rooms on either side of the Dachau gas chamber (undressing room and morgue room) are 10 ft. high. The photo above shows a pipe going through the wall of the undressing room into the gas chamber.  This indicates that the gas chamber room is also 10 ft. high, but has a dropped ceiling, making it 7.6 ft. high.  So what is in the space between the 10 ft. ceiling and the dropped ceiling?  Could there be water pipes and real shower heads for a shower room in this space?

On the west wall of the Dachau gas chamber, there are two openings, one for a peep hole and one for a water pipe.  The two openings are shown in the photo below.  The frames around these openings don’t match, which indicates that they were probably not put there at the same time. The peep hole was probably added after the gas chamber was built.  Why would a shower room need a peephole?

Openings for peep hole and water faucet in Dachau gas chamber

Soon after the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945, a US War Crimes Investigation Team was brought to Dachau and an attempt was made to find some of the bodies of the prisoners who had been gassed. It was the policy to burn the bodies in all the camps, but in the last months of the war, the bodies at Dachau had been buried on a hill called Leitenberg.

One of the mass graves on Leitenberg was opened and Dr. Charles Larson, a leading forensic pathologist, who was with the US Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Department (JAGD), performed autopsies on hundreds of bodies without finding any that showed evidence of poison gas.

So, is there any evidence that there was a gas chamber at Dachau?  Yes, a letter from Dr. Sigmund Rascher to Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, which is quoted here. There is also the film that was shown at the Nuremberg IMT; the film was introduced at the IMT to prove the charges of Crimes against Humanity, which were new laws made up by the Allies AFTER the war.

The transcript of the narration in the film about the gas chamber at Dachau is quoted below:

“This is the Brausebad — the shower bath. Inside the shower bath — the gas vents. On the ceiling — the dummy shower heads. In the engineers room — the intake and outlet pipes. Push buttons to control inflow and outtake of gas. A hand-valve to regulate pressure. Cyanide powder was used to generate the lethal smoke. From the gas chamber, the bodies were removed to the crematory.

The “gas vents” shown in film were empty light fixture boxes

“Engineer’s room” that was shown in film at Nuremberg IMT

There are two openings on the east wall of the Dachau gas chamber, one of which is shown in the photo below.

Opening on the east wall of the Dachau gas chamber

The information about the two wall openings, which was given in the display in the undressing room next to the gas chamber, when I visited the Dachau Memorial Site in 1997, is quoted here:

“Vents – flaps where prussic acid poison pellets could be inserted from the outside.”

Whadda ya mean, “could be”?  Were poison pellets inserted from the outside or not?

The openings for the “poison pellets,” shown in the photograph above, are approximately 16 by 28 inches in size. Behind these grates are two bins on the outside wall, which could have been opened in order to pour the pellets onto the floor of the gas chamber. The grated openings are less than two feet above the floor and two of the 6 floor drains are about 4 feet from the openings. The manufacturer’s guidelines for the use of Zyklon-B cautioned users that the pellets should be put back into the can, after gassing was complete, and returned for recycling, not swept down a drain.

The photo below shows the outside wall where the two openings are located.

Two openings on the east wall of the Dachau gas chamber

In the photo above, it looks like someone tried to make a hole in the wall, but botched the job.  Does this look like German construction to you?

How come no one ever mentioned these openings until long after the Nuremberg IMT?  Is it because these two openings were not there when the American liberators arrived?  If so, who did this construction and why?

I was inspired to do this post by a comment made by Mr. Malanga, a teacher at TechBoston Academy, who was the guide for a group of students on a trip to Dachau. Mr. Malanga thinks that I “need to do a little more research” before I “create these ridiculous posts.”

I think that Mr. Malanga’s students were not adequately prepared for their trip to Dachau. One student who wrote about the Dachau trip was concerned with the feelings of the Jews as they went into the gas chamber and the feelings of the SS men who gassed them, but not about whether or not this was actually a gas chamber.