Scrapbookpages Blog

April 25, 2010

42nd Rainbow Divison newsletter tells about the liberation of Dachau on April 29, 1945

Vernon Lawrence “Larry” Petersen was a Technical Sergeant in the 42nd Rainbow Division of the US Seventh Army during WW II.  His son, Bruce Petersen, wrote in an e-mail to me that “As was the case with many WW II veterans, he would rarely talk about the war, and then only give us very brief glimpses. However, he did note that he was among the first to enter Dachau.”

Larry Petersen died June 11, 2004; in going through his father’s papers, his son came across a number of documents and letters related to his father’s service in the Army that he never knew existed. One of these documents was the 42nd Division World News newsletter which he sent to me. (more…)

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.

April 21, 2010

Lee DeWyze is the best…

Filed under: TV shows — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:21 am

Last night I watched Lee DeWyze sing “The Boxer,” an old Simon and Garfunkel song.  Simon declared it to be the best performance of the night, even though Lee was only the second singer. If you missed it, here is the video from YouTube. (more…)

Westerbork camp is being rebuilt

Filed under: Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , , , , , — furtherglory @ 10:20 am

Westerbork was a transit camp for Jews in the Netherlands; this is the camp where Anne Frank and her family were sent in August 1944 after someone betrayed them to the Gestapo. Over 400,000 people visit the site of the former camp every year, although there is virtually nothing there.  According to recent news reports, the camp is being rebuilt for the benefit of tourists. (more…)

April 20, 2010

Finally, the big day arrives….

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 9:44 am

Today is April 20th,  “Yom Ha’Atzmaut,” Israel’s Independence Day.  It was on this date in the Hebrew calendar, 62 years ago, that Israel officially became a state. (more…)

April 19, 2010

Tour guide compared Dachau to Japanese internment camp

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 3:42 pm

Today I read this on a blog written by a tourist who visited Dachau:

“It was about a fifteen minute ride outside of Munich, and I caught a train there this morning and was I Dachau around 11:00. I met a very nice American family on the bus out to the camp from Philadelphia and talked to them for awhile on my way in. I saw them again right before I left, and the dad had gotten into an argument with a tour guide who had compared the camp to a Japanese internment camp. He said he was going to write letters to the company she was with and the Dachau memorial committee. I told him to do it, and that he had done the right thing. That is an absurd and horrific comparison and I am glad I wasn’t the one who heard it.”

Funny, that’s the first thing I thought of when I first visited Dachau in 1997: Dachau is not like the camps that America had for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

In 1997, I entered the Dachau memorial site by going through an opening in the fence on the east side of the former camp. At that time, the entrance was not through the gate house, as it is today.

In 1997 tourists entered Dachau through an opening in the fence

Reconstructed barracks at Dachau memorial site

The first thing that I saw when I entered Dachau in 1997 was the two reconstructed barracks.  I was taken aback because I had expected the barracks to look like those in photos that I had seen of America’s internment camps for the Japanese-Americans.

The barracks for the Japanese-Americans were constructed with the cheapest kind of materials; they were what is known as “tar paper shacks.”  The roads between the barracks in the internment camps were not covered with gravel; they were just dirt roads which were muddy in winter and dusty in summer.  The paths between the barracks were not perfectly straight and there were no trees or flowers, like at Dachau.

I went inside one of the reconstructed barracks at Dachau, the only one that was open at that time.  The toilets and wash basins were inside the barracks where the prisoners slept.  In the Japanese internment camps, the prisoners had to go outside to the toilets which were in a separate building.  If they had to go at night, the prisoners had to go outside, through the mud and rain, to get to the toilets.

Flush toilets in Dachau concentration camp

The Japanese-Americans had to work in the internment camps, although they were paid a pittance.  The Dachau prisoners also had to work, but they got paid in camp money which they could use to buy extra food or other things in the camp canteen. They could even use their camp money to visit a brothel inside the camp. I don’t think the Japanese-Americans were provided with a brothel.

The biggest difference between Dachau and the internment camps in America was that prisoners were put into the Dachau camp only after they had done something to identify themselves as “an enemy of the state.”  Japanese-Americans and German-Americans were put into internment camps just because of their ethnicity. This was a violation of their 4th Amendment rights under the American Constitution.  The German Constitution had an Emergency clause (Article 48) which allowed civil rights to be suspended in case of an emergency; the emergency that led to the opening of Dachau in 1933 was the Reichstag fire on the night of February 27, 1933.

So the prisoners who were put into Dachau did not have anything comparable to our 4th Amendment rights. Yet, after World War II, the German concentration camp system was declared by the Allies to be a “criminal enterprise” so that every staff member (including the Kapos) was automatically a war criminal.  Was it a war crime for America to put Japanese-Americans into internment camp?  No, America won the war, so we can’t be war criminals.

It was not until November 1938 that Jews were sent to Dachau or other camps just because they were Jews.  The Jews sent to Dachau in 1938 were released as soon as they made arrangements to leave Germany. It was not until February 1942 that all Jews in Germany and German-occupied territories were deported to camps, although not to Dachau.

The Dachau prisoners could be released for good behavior, but the Japanese-Americans were only released if they agreed to serve in the American Army, which means the women had no chance of being released until the war was over.

In other respects, the camps were the same. Both the internment camps and the Dachau camp had guard towers where soldiers guarded them with loaded guns.

So it was very wrong for a tour guide to compare Dachau to a Japanese-American internment camp.  I certainly hope that this man wrote to the tour company that employed this guide and set them straight on how these two types of camps compared. (Just kidding!)

It’s time to bring back the sign in the Dachau “gas chamber”

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 8:35 am

The first time that I visited the Dachau memorial site in 1997, there was a sign in the corner of the gas chamber. The sign said in five languages that the gas chamber at Dachau “had never been used” or “war nicht in Betrieb.”  Since then, I’ve been back to Dachau several times; the sign has been removed and the Museum has been expanded considerably.  Visitors are now told by some of the tour guides that the Dachau gas chamber was, in fact, used to kill Jews. (more…)

April 17, 2010

entartete Kunst (degenerate art)

I’ve been doing some research on the locations of Eisenhower’s camps for the German soldiers who surrendered at the end of World War II.  One of these camps was at Sinzig in the vicinity of Remagen, a city on the west bank of the Rhine river.  Remagen is famous as the location of the Ludendorff bridge, which was the bridge where American troops first crossed the Rhine.  The bridge eventually collapsed, and today only the towers are left as a reminder. At the site of the Remagen bridge, there is a piece of artwork that Hitler would have called “entartete Kunst,” which, in English, means “degenerate art.”

Modern art at the site of the Remagen bridge

The photo above shows a modern sculpture which would have been banned by Hitler in the Third Reich.  Putting such art at the site which was a turning point in Germany’s loss of the war is like rubbing salt into a wound.  It is unnecessary “piling on.”  Leave the German people some pride, for pity’s sake.

The towers at the Ludendorff bridge are still standing

There is a time and place for everything.  In my opinion, the site of the Remagen bridge is not the place for modern art; it is a historic site where the German people fought and died, during World War II, for what they believed in.  Whether or not we agree with German ideology during the Third Reich, I don’t think that historic World War II sites in Germany are the proper place for modern art.  It would be like putting Nazi art at a historic site for the American revolution in America.

Cover of book for entartete Kunst exhibition in 1937

In 1937, the Nazis put up an art exhibition in Munich, in which they showed modern art, but for the purpose of showing it as degenerate.  Hitler believed that modern art was influenced by the Jews, and that it was un-German.  He was an artist and amateur architect himself, and he favored traditional art and architecture.

Today, the term “entartete Kunst” is used with great pride in Germany because the German people want to distance themselves from the Third Reich and everything that it represented.

The photo below shows modern art on a church in Berlin.  In my opinion, this is an example of using modern art in a  totally inappropriate way.  This is a church, built in traditional style, that was bombed in World War II; the church was restored and this artwork was added.

Modern Art on a restored church in Berlin

The memorial sites of the concentration camps feature “degenerate art” as a symbol of victory over the Nazis. The Buchenwald memorial site has an art museum which features what Hitler would have considered the most deplorable examples of “entartete Kunst.”  One room in the art gallery is devoted to the work of Artist Jozef Szajna who enlarged photographs of Buchenwald inmates and then pasted these photos on huge cardboard cutouts, as shown in the photographs below.

Artwork in Buchenwald Museum

Artwork done by a Buchenwald survivor

German soldiers look at artwork in Buchenwald museum

German soldiers are required to visit a concentration camp memorial site, just like the German school children are required to be indoctrinated.  The photo above is one of the saddest sights I’ve ever seen.  This is what happens when  a country loses a war.  Imagine if America had lost World War II and we were all required to make a trip to a museum to view Hitler’s traditional paintings.

Protestant Church at Dachau has no right angles

Modern Art in courtyard of Protestant Church at Dachau memorial site

The Protestant Church at the Dachau memorial site was built without any right angles, as a protest against the order and discipline of the Nazis.  An exception was made for the artwork in the courtyard of the church, which is shown in the photo directly above. The photo below shows the altar inside the church with a modern square shaped cross on the wall.  To me, this display of modern art in a church at Dachau is appropriate; it celebrates the victory of the prisoners over the Nazis and their culture.

Altar and modern cross on wall of Dachau church

Sculpture at Zeppelin field in Nürnberg

The photo above shows modern art in front of a Museum at the Zeppelin field in Nürnberg.  Another example of the victors rubbing it in by putting “degenerate art” at a place where the Nazis once demonstrated their power.

The two photos below show the clash of cultures in Germany. The top photo shows traditional architecture, while the second photo illustrates the modern architecture of the Jewish Museum; these two buildings are side by side in the city of Berlin, Germany.

Traditional building in Berlin represents German culture

Jewish Museum in Berlin represents “entartete Kunst”

The ultra modern Jewish Museum building in Berlin, designed by Jewish architect Daniel Libeskind, is intended to be in the form of a deconstructed Star of David, as though it has been hit by lightning. The only windows are the angular slits that you see on the sides of the building. The surface of the building is covered with polished metal facing. There is no door into the exhibits; entry is through a tunnel from the Baroque building next door.

The contrast between the old building and the new modern one illustrates the vast difference in thinking between the Nazis and the Jews. Hitler would have called the Jewish museum building “degenerate” architecture.

The memorial site at the former Dachau concentration camp is the appropriate place for “degenerate art,” such as the International Monument, shown in the photo below.

International monument at Dachau memorial site

April 16, 2010

65 years ago, Americans accepted the surrender of the Dachau concentration camp…

April 29, 2010 will be the 65th anniversary of the surrender of the Dachau concentration camp to Brig. Gen. Henning Linden of the 42nd Infantry Division of the US Seventh Army by SS 2nd Lt. Heinrich Wicker, accompanied by Red Cross representative Victor Maurer, holding a white flag. (more…)

April 15, 2010

Glass window in Majdanek gas chamber

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 11:38 am

Update: March 28, 2013

I am pleased to report that the gas chamber with the glass window is now officially called a disinfection chamber where clothing was deloused with Zyklon-B, the same gas that was used to exterminate the Jews.  Now the official Holocaust story is that only two of the gas chambers in Building #41 were used as homicidal gas chambers.  The other gas chambers in the building were used to disinfect the clothing in an attempt to save the lives of the prisoners by killing the lice that spreads typhus.  The number of Jewish deaths at Majdanek has recently been officially reduced from 1.5 million down to 59,000.

This means that anyone, who is serving a 5-year prison term for denying that 1.5 million Jews were killed at Majdanek, or denying that there was a homicidal gas chamber with a window at Majdanek, can now be released.

Continue reading my original post.

Someone mentioned in a comment on my blog that there was a glass window in the gas chamber at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany.  I don’t know anything about that, but there is a glass window in the Majdanek gas chamber. I visited Majdanek in October 1998 and went inside the gas chamber building where I saw the window with my own eyes.

Plate glass window inside the Majdanek gas chamber

The window inside the gas chamber at Majdanek is too high up on the wall for an observation window, so it must have been just for the purpose of letting in some light.  It would have been too cruel to shove prisoners inside a dark chamber and gas them to death. Notice the stains on the ceiling, which were caused by heavy use of Zyklon-B, the poison gas used to kill the prisoners, and also to disinfect the clothing of the prisoners. (Not at the same time, of course.)

That brings up the question of whether or not the prisoners ever tried to break the window to escape before they were overcome by gas fumes.  There are no bars on the window, so the prisoners could have escaped, but there were probably guards outside the building, ready to shoot anyone who tried to jump out of the window.

Barrack No. 41, the gas chamber building at Majdanek

The photo above shows Barrack Number 41, the gas chamber building at Majdanek.  A sign on the outside of the building says “Bad und Desinfektion” (Bath and Disinfection), which the Museum guidebook says was “to lull the vigilance of those condemned to death.”

The square in front of the building, in the photo above, was nicknamed Rosenfeld, which in German means field of roses.  This was a joke because Rosenfeld was a common Jewish name. The Nazis called our President Franklin D. Roosevelt by the name Rosenfeld because they thought that he was Jewish.  According to my tour guide, this square was where prisoners were lined up for selection; some prisoners were selected to work and some were selected to be gassed. (And you thought the Germans have no sense of humor.)

There are actually two identical buildings at Majdanek, where Zyklon-B was used. Only the building used for gassing people was shown on the tour; the other building is barrack Number 42 which was used for delousing clothing with the same Zyklon-B when the camp was in operation. Barrack Number 42 is off limits to visitors.

There were large clothing warehouses at Majdanek and in the town of Lublin; the clothes from the three Operation Reinhart camps (Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor) were brought to Majdanek for disinfection and sorting before being sent back to Germany to be given to German civilians.

Gas chamber at Majdanek shows heavy stains from Zyklon-B use

Upon entering Barrack No. 41,  the gas chamber building, you first come to an unfurnished room which has narrow wooden boards over the concrete floor; this is the undressing room. Then you enter the shower room, a large room with rows of exposed water pipes and sprinkler-type shower heads on the ceiling; this room also has a wooden floor over concrete. At one end of the shower room, there are two large concrete bathtubs. The tour guide explained that the prisoners were not allowed to stay very long in the bathtub; they had to get in and out in a few seconds. The bathtubs were probably filled with disinfectant, as was the case at other camps such as Buchenwald.

This shower room was also used by incoming prisoners who were selected to work at Majdanek, which was a labor camp as well as a death camp for Jews.

According to the latest figures given at the Majdanek Museum, there were 78,000 deaths of all causes at Majdanek, which included 59,000 Jews.

The gas chamber building at Majdanek has three separate homicidal gassing rooms. When I was there in 1998, visitors entered through an air raid shelter door that opened into the three gas chamber rooms from the shower room. A sign in the shower room said that the prisoners were given a shower before gassing to “quite (sic) them down.” The tour guide explained that the victims were given a hot shower so they would die more quickly in the gas chamber because the Nazis had found that the heat of the bodies caused the gas to work faster. Zyklon-B comes in crystal form, like tiny ice-blue rocks, and the pellets must be heated before they release the poison gas which kills lice or people.

The Majdanek gas chamber building has a heating unit outside the chambers which could blow hot air into the chamber to activate the poison gas, so a hot shower, before the victims entered the gas chamber, was not really necessary.

The first room in the gas chamber building is a large room with what I would call an alcove.  In other words, the first room that visitors enter from the shower room is shaped like the letter L.  There is another door into the alcove, which is shown in the photo below.

Door into Majdanek gas chamber

The gas chamber building is a wooden horse barn with a brick and concrete building inside of it.  The door, shown in the photo above, opens into what I call an alcove that is part of the first large room that you enter from the shower room.

Inside the gas chamber building at Majdanek

There are two holes in the ceiling of the gas chamber through which the Zyklon-B pellets could be dropped into the room and openings in the wall through which hot air was blown in. The largest gas chamber room has a wooden floor over concrete; the walls are covered with stucco.

At Majdanek, there are a total of four gas chambers, according to the Museum guidebook which says that the gas chamber right next to the shower room was “a makeshift chamber which presumably had begun functioning before the other three were opened.”

The fourth gas chamber, which is disguised as a shower room, is in the reconstructed crematorium. The Germans allegedly burned down the crematorium building to destroy the evidence of their crimes.

In the second gas chamber in Barracks No. 41, there is a small interior room which has a small barred window, about 6 by 10 inches, on one of the walls. This window had no glass and no window frame when I saw it. Through this window, the killing process could be observed by an SS guard standing in the small interior observation room, according to my tour guide. Of course, the guard would have been wearing a gas mask, but he would have had no protection from the victims who would have undoubtedly tried to kill him; the entrance to the small observation room is inside the gas chamber and there is no door.

Inside the interior observation room were cans of carbon monoxide, which was also used in this chamber, according to the guidebook.

So there were a total of three gas chamber rooms in Barrack No. 41, not including the small interior room used for observation. Some observers have referred to the first room with the alcove as two separate chambers. All the rooms are connected, with each room opening into the next one. The last gas chamber room in this building is smaller than the others and has no heavy blue stains.

Here is a description of the gas chambers in “Bath and Disinfection” Building Number One (barrack #41) at Majdanek, quoted from a guidebook which I purchased in 1998 at the Visitor’s Center:

“The gas chambers were built of ceramic brick, covered with a ferro-concrete roof, and provided with a cement floor. The installation comprised three chambers: a large one (10 m x 5.5 m x 2 m) and two smaller ones (4.80 m x 3.60 x 2 m) as well as a cabin for the SS man who pumped doses of gas from steel cylinders into the chambers and watched through a small grated window (25 x 15 cm), the behavior of the victims. Two chambers, the large one and the southern smaller one, were equipped with devices for the use of carbon monoxide (CO). In the smaller one, there was a metal pipe, 40 mm in diameter, running along the walls above the floor. The gas got into the chamber through holes in the pipe. Cyclone B was poured into a special opening in the concrete roof.

“The large chamber also had a metal pipe, 25 mm in diameter, fastened to one of the walls above the floor. As in the smaller chamber, the carbon monoxide from a steel cylinder got in through this pipe. In addition, there were two openings in the western wall, through which hot air (120 degrees C) was blown in by a ventilator from a stove placed on the outside of the chamber, which alone killed the victims and, at the same time, intensified the action of Cyclone B, since the lethal effect of the gas increased at a temperature of over 27 degrees C. The other small chamber, on the southern side, had only an opening in the roof to pour in Cyclone B. The massive metal doors to the chambers were air-tight, fastened by two bolts and iron bars.”

According to the guidebook that I purchased at the Visitor’s Center:

Construction of the gas chambers at Majdanek started in August 1942 and was completed in October 1942. By October 1942, the Germans had conquered most of Europe and the Eastern front extended well into the Soviet Union; they were in the midst of their plan to get rid of all the Jews in Europe. Using the pretense of “transportation to the East,” the Nazis maintained strict secrecy about their “Final Solution,” even on the blueprints for the Majdanek gas chamber building, by naming the gas chambers “Entlausungsanlage,” which means “delousing station” in English.

Strangely, the gas chamber building at Majdanek is located at the bottom of a slope, and the crematorium is at the top of the slope.  The bodies of the Jews who were gassed had to be hauled up the hill, past the barracks where all the prisoners could observe what was going on.  The gas chamber building was also in plain view of everyone who was traveling on the road past the camp, which was a major road back then.

According to Wikipedia, one of the Jews who was gassed at Majdanek in 1942 was 9-year-old Henio Zytomirski.  Henio has his own Facebook page.  I was born the same year as Henio, and I never thought I would live to see dead Holocaust victims social networking.

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