Scrapbookpages Blog

June 17, 2010

Dachau ovens had two sets of doors

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 12:44 pm

I’ve seen the crematorium at Dachau many times, but I didn’t realize until just yesterday that there are actually two sets of doors on the cremation ovens.  An engineer e-mailed me and told me that the pulleys above the ovens were used to raise and lower the inner doors.

Pulley and counterweight was used to raise and lower inner door of oven at Dachau concentration camp

Some of the tour guides at Dachau tell visitors that prisoners were hung by the neck until dead in front of the ovens, then immediately shoved into the oven to be cremated.  This information might be based on an article written by Sidney Olson for Time Magazine, which was published on May 7, 1945, the day that Germany surrendered to the Allies to end World War II.

Here is a quote from the Time Magazine article:

Outside one building, half covered by a brown tarpaulin, was a stack about five feet high and about 20 feet wide of naked dead bodies, all of them emaciated. We went on around this building and came to the central crematory. The rooms here, in order, were: 1) the office where the living and the dead were passed through and where all their clothing was stripped from them; 2) the Brausebad (shower) room, where the victims were gassed; and 3) the crematory. In the crematory were two large furnaces. Before the two furnaces were hooks and pulleys on rafters above them. Here, according to a number of Frenchmen, the SS men often hanged prisoners by the necks or by the thumbs or whatever their fancy dictated. From here the victims could watch while being whipped and tortured as their comrades were slid into the furnace.

Three of the five ovens in the Dachau crematorium

Notice the oven on the right in the photo above.  It has a metal door positioned against the brick wall above the oven door.  This is the inner door that was raised and lowered by a pulley which you can see in the photo.  The oven on the left has a pulley but the inner door is missing.  However, you can see in the old photo below that both ovens originally had an inner door.

Old photo shows crematorium workers posing in front of Dachau ovens

A sign above the two ovens in the center of the room is shown in the photo below.

Sign above the two center ovens in Dachau crematorium

In the photo above, you can see two hooks on the rafter above the oven.  Some of the Dachau tour guides say that dead bodies were hung from these hooks to keep the body straight before rigor mortis set in. A sign on the wall of the crematorium tells visitors that prisoners were hanged in the crematorium.  This doesn’t seem reasonable to me, since there was a gallows right outside the crematorium.

Closeup of oven shows inner door above the outer door

Two brackets on the walls of the oven are shown in photo

In the photo above, you can see two brackets on the side walls that might have been used to hold the inner door in place after it was lowered.

The three photos below show the old Dachau crematorium, which has a single oven with only one set of doors.

The old crematorium at Dachau had one oven

Single oven in old Dachau crematorium has two muffles

Oven in old Dachau crematorium has no inner doors

16 Comments

  1. […] If you look closely at the photo above, you can see a small hook, to the right of the center beam.  To the left of the beam is another hook that is less visible.  The pulley above the ovens was used to raise and lower the inner doors of the ovens.  I  previously blogged about the two sets of doors in the ovens at Dachau. […]

    Pingback by Iron hooks over the ovens at Dachau where prisoners were hung to watch as their comrades were burned alive | Scrapbookpages Blog — May 25, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

  2. It’s odd that all the sick,twisted, grotesque, incredibly unimaginably sad human tragedy that surrounds these furnaces, your big fascination is with the inside blast doors…..but I guess if that’s what hits you the hardest during your visit.

    Comment by Max Power — April 22, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

    • I didn’t notice these doors on any of my many visits to Dachau. Someone e-mailed me and pointed out that there were two sets of doors. Many people are interested in details like this, so I thought I would pass along the information. The ovens at Dachau were not used very much because of the shortage of coal. The bodies were buried on the hill called Leitenberg, which few people visit. The purpose of burning the bodies was to stop the spread of disease. When the ovens could no longer be used, the bodies were buried in a remote spot, far away from the camp. Look at the photos closely and you will see that the ovens show that they were not used very much. The massacre of the German soldiers at Dachau took place in the spot where the coal was normally stored, except there was no coal left by the time that the Americans arrived.

      Comment by furtherglory — April 22, 2011 @ 10:37 pm

  3. I’m sorry if this comment seems slightly irrelevant. But Sidney Olson is my great uncle, and the correct spelling of his last name is Olson. Once again, sorry for this being a tad random.

    Comment by Samantha — August 24, 2010 @ 9:53 pm

    • Thank you for telling me this. I have made a correction.

      Comment by furtherglory — August 25, 2010 @ 6:57 am

  4. There is also on the top photo, the thick white pipe going from behind the oven room into the space above the shower room/gas chamber.

    What was its function?

    Comment by lgr — June 18, 2010 @ 9:23 pm

    • The white pipe in the top photo is going into the morgue room which is adjacent to the oven room on the south side. The pipe is coming from “the engineer’s room” which is a wide hallway behind all the rooms in Baracke X. There is a similar pipe going into the gas chamber from the waiting room; you can see this pipe on this page of my web site: http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/GasChamber/UndressingRoom.html

      I don’t know what these pipes are. Visitors are not allowed to go into the hallway, called “the engineer’s room.”

      Comment by furtherglory — June 19, 2010 @ 5:37 am

  5. “posing” is one thing, but not to have an oven heated up for burning is something else.

    As for the George Stevens footage, it can also only be artificial as either the flames is something been set on fire inside where the body would be place, or something set on fire inside the ash tray, as I don’t think you could get those type of flames with a normal functioning oven.

    So it was something set up for cinematic effect.

    Incidentally, you will be interested to know that Franz Blaha gave testimony that 9 bodies could be put in one of those ovens at a time.

    Comment by lgr — June 18, 2010 @ 9:20 pm

    • Dr. Georg Konrad Morgen gave testimony at Nuremberg that Dr. Blaha had given testimony about things that he couldn’t possibly have known about. The number of bodies put into the ovens is probably one of the things that Dr. Blaha could not have known about; he was a prisoner and he was not allowed to observe everything that happened in the camp. However, the ovens were deep enough to hold two adult bodies, placed end to end. Maybe the bodies of 9 children could have been burned at one time.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 19, 2010 @ 5:48 am

  6. Smith wrote that Ludvik sent him a letter in which he complained that his team of 10 people were not being treated as well as they had been by the SS. Ludvik wrote in this letter: “We feel that after our liberation, at least the same standard of living should be maintained. But our position is worse than then as to food, drinks and tobacco.”

    My comment: Just about everyone found out that under the Allies they were less well off than under the Germans. The Germans were better managers and not so arrogant.

    Comment by Sceptic — June 18, 2010 @ 10:13 am

  7. “Old photo shows crematorium workers posing in front of Dachau ovens”. This is an interesting caption. Wouldn’t such people have been shot? Who were they? Jews? Germans? Other?

    Comment by paolosilv — June 17, 2010 @ 11:58 pm

    • There was no reason for the crematorium workers at Dachau to be shot. They were put to work by the Americans after the camp was liberated because prisoners were still dying of typhus. The cremation process was too slow because 2,226 prisoners died of typhus during the month of May, so they had to bury these prisoners.

      According to Marcus J. Smith, a U.S. Army doctor, who wrote a book called “The Harrowing of Hell,” the chief of the crematorium crew was Ludvik “a heavy, powerfully muscled Czech who has labored in the crematorium for a long time.” Smith wrote that Ludvik sent him a letter in which he complained that his team of 10 people were not being treated as well as they had been by the SS. Ludvik wrote in this letter: “We feel that after our liberation, at least the same standard of living should be maintained. But our position is worse than then as to food, drinks and tobacco.”

      Comment by furtherglory — June 18, 2010 @ 6:59 am

    • The crematorium workers at Auschwitz were killed every three months to prevent them from testifying later as witnesses, according to some of the survivors. The crematorium workers at Dachau were not killed and they worked at this job for years.

      Comment by furtherglory — August 25, 2010 @ 7:06 am

  8. The pulley system was also at the Sachsenhausen ovens (now destroyed), but not at Majdanek, Buchenwald, Auschwitz I, Mauthausen.

    The photo with the corpse appears staged to me. I don’t believe that it was about to be cremated.

    Incidentally the George Stevens footage is online. It doesnt show the ovens, just a naked flame through the doors of the crematorium.

    About 40 seconds into the clip

    Comment by littlegreyrabbit — June 17, 2010 @ 6:02 pm

    • Yes, the photo with the corpse was staged. That’s why I wrote in the caption that the crematorium workers are “posing.”

      Comment by furtherglory — June 17, 2010 @ 6:51 pm

    • Are you a neo-Nazi or a neo-Conservative?

      Comment by sjones — June 17, 2010 @ 7:50 pm


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