Scrapbookpages Blog

May 16, 2010

Gas chamber at Auschwitz III, aka Monowitz

In his famous book, entitled Night, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel never once mentioned the gas chambers at Auschwitz.  How could he not have known about the Auschwitz gas chambers?  That’s easy: he was sent to the Auschwitz III labor camp, known as Monowitz, a few weeks after his arrival.  But wait a minute! There was also a gas chamber at Monowitz, according to testimony at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal.

At the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, which began in November 1945, the SS was indicted as a criminal organization. The star witness for the defense, on the charges against the SS, was Sturmbannführer Georg Konrad Morgen, a judge who was authorized by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler to investigate the Nazi concentration camps for corruption and unauthorized murder. Dr. Morgen’s testimony is included in IMT vol. XX, p. 550 – 551.

Dr. Morgen found plenty of corruption at Auschwitz-Birkenau: the SS men were engaged in stealing from the warehouses where the possessions, that had been confiscated from the prisoners, were stored. In the course of his investigation in which he spoke to many of the prisoners, Dr. Morgen also claimed to have learned about the gassing of the Jews, not at the main Auschwitz camp, nor at Birkenau, but at Monowitz, a labor camp where the IG Farben company used Jewish prisoners as workers in  their factories.

In his testimony at Nuremberg, Dr. Morgen claimed that, although gas chambers existed at Monowitz, the SS was not involved in this crime. Dr. Morgen testified that the gas chambers at Monowitz were not under the jurisdiction of the SS and that the order to build these gas chambers had come directly from Adolf Hitler, who had given this order to Christian Wirth of the Kripo (Criminal Police), who was not a member of the SS, according to Dr. Morgen. Wirth had previously been in charge of the T-4 program in which severely disabled and retarded people had been gassed. Wirth later became the first commandant at the Belzec death camp, one of the three Aktion Reinhard camps under the jurisdiction of Odilo Globocnik.

On August 8, 1946, Dr. Morgen testified, as follows, at the Nuremberg IMT regarding the “extermination camp” at Monowitz:

Then the trucks left. They did not go to the Auschwitz concentration camp, but in another direction, to the Monowitz extermination camp, which was some kilometers distant. This extermination camp consisted of a series of crematoria not recognizable as such from the outside. They could be mistaken for large bath installations. Even the detainees knew it. These crematoria were surrounded by barbed wire and were tended on the inside by the Jewish working groups already mentioned.


The Monowitz extermination camp was set apart from the concentration camp. It was situated in a vast industrial zone and was not recognizable as such. Chimneys smoked all across the horizon. The camp itself was guarded on the outside by a detachment of Balts, Estonians, Lithuanians, and by Ukrainians. The entire procedure was almost entirely in the hands of the detainees themselves, who were supervised only from time to time by a subordinate officer (Unterführer ). The execution itself was carried out by another Unterführer who released the gas into that place.

In a deposition, given to the British shortly after he was captured, Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoess confessed that there was a gas chamber at the Buna Works at Monowitz.

The following excerpt is from the deposition originally given to the British by Hoess:

In 1941 the first intakes of Jews came from Slovakia and Upper Silesia. People unfit to work were gassed in a room of the crematorium in accordance with an order which Himmler gave me personally.

I was ordered to see Himmler in Berlin in June 1941 and he told me, approximately, the following:

The Führer ordered the solution of the Jewish question in Europe. A few so called Vernichtungslager are existing in the General Goverment:

Belzec near Rawa Ruska Ost Polen

Treblinka near Malkinia on the River Bug

Wolzek near Lublin (He was probably referring to the Majdenek death camp)

The Buna Works

The Buna Works, which Commandant Rudolf Hoess mentioned, was another name for Auschwitz III, also known as Monowitz.  So, two top SS officials knew about the gas chamber at Monowitz, but what about the prisoners?  Did they also know about the Monowitz gas chamber.  Yes!

Sgt. Charles Coward was a British POW who had been captured in May 1940; he was sent to a POW camp near Monowitz in December 1943. Sgt. Coward testified at the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal regarding the gas chamber at Monowitz.

The following excerpt is from Sgt. Coward’s testimony and affidavit as reported on this web site:

Affidavit Copy of Document NI-11696, Prosecution Exhibit 1462

COWARD: I made it a point to get one of the guards to take me to town under the pretense of buying new razor blades and stuff for our boys. For a few cigarettes he pointed out to me the various places where they had the gas chambers and the places where they took them down to be cremated. Everyone to whom I spoke gave the same story – the people in the city of Auschwitz, the SS men, concentration camp inmates, foreign workers – everyone said that thousands of people were being gassed and cremated at Auschwitz, and that the inmates who worked with us and who were unable to continue working because of their physical condition and were suddenly missing, had been sent to the gas chambers. The inmates who were selected to be gassed went through the procedure of preparing for a bath, they stripped their clothes off, and walked into the bathing room. Instead of showers, there was gas. All the camp knew it. All the civilian population knew it. I mixed with the civilian population at Auschwitz. I was at Auschwitz nearly every day…Nobody could live in Auschwitz and work in the plant, or even come down to the plant without knowing what was common knowledge to everybody.

Even while still at Auschwitz we got radio broadcasts from the outside speaking about the gassings and burnings at Auschwitz. I recall one of these broadcasts was by Anthony Eden himself. Also, there were pamphlets dropped in Auschwitz and the surrounding territory, one of which I personally read, which related what was going on in the camp at Auschwitz. These leaflets were scattered all over the countryside and must have been dropped from planes. They were in Polish and German. Under those circumstances, nobody could be at or near Auschwitz without knowing what was going on.

So, it appears that everyone who was at, or anywhere near Auschwitz, knew about the gas chambers.  Everyone except Elie Wiesel, that is.  There is a lot of speculation now that Elie Wiesel is a fraud, and that he wasn’t really a prisoner at Auschwitz.  If he was, in fact, a prisoner there, how come he never knew about the gas chambers?

As I see it, there are two possible conclusions:  Either there were no gas chambers at Auschwitz, or Elie Wiesel was not a prisoner there?  So, which is it?