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November 14, 2010

the gas chamber at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp

Filed under: Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 8:03 am

I have visited the Memorial site of the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp twice, once in 1999 and again in 2002.  The first time, I completely missed the ruins of the gas chamber since I did not have a tour guide and there was no sign pointing to it.  On my second visit, a map had been added at the ruins of the crematorium which showed the location of the gas chamber.   On both visits, I saw a sign in the Museum which called Sachsenhausen a “death camp.”  According to the Museum, there were 100,000 deaths at this camp.

Map of the gas chamber route at the crematorium ruins in Sachsenhausen camp

The red line on the photo above shows where the prisoners entered through a former garage, then went into the undressing room which had a door into the gas chamber.  After the prisoners had been gassed, the bodies were removed through a second door in the gas chamber and carried to the cremation ovens.

Gas Chamber with oven ruins in the background

The photo below shows the entrance door to the gas chamber on the right and, in the foreground, the exit door which leads to steps down into the former garage.  The bodies were carried down the steps, through the former garage, to the cremation ovens.

Exit from the gas chamber with steps down to the former garage

The Sachsenhausen gas chamber was disguised as a shower with one floor drain

The Sachsenhausen gas chamber was quite small, only about 7 ft. by 9 ft.  The undressing room was about four times the size of the gas chamber.  In the background of the photo above, you can see the execution spot where prisoners were shot.

The gas chamber at Sachsenhausen was allegedly completed in 1943; the Commandant of Sachsenhausen confessed at his trial that he had built the gas chamber on his own authority.

Commandant Anton Kaindl in the dock at his trial

In 1942, following the Wannsee Conference, the Jews were sent to “death camps” in the East, such as Treblinka, Belzec, and Sobibor.  Two other death camps in the East were Auschwitz-Birkenau and Majdanek.  So why did the Germans wait until 1943 to build a gas chamber at Sachsenhausen, a camp that was mainly for political prisoners?  In 1943, all the Jews were being sent to the East.  According to the Soviet prosecutors, at the trial of the Sachsenhausen staff, the gas chamber at Sachsenhausen was for the purpose of killing Soviet POWs.

There were two other methods of killing Soviet POWs at Sachsenhausen: shooting them at the execution site and shooting them through a slit in a measuring stick on a wall.  But for some reason, the Commandant of Sachsenhausen took it upon himself to build a gas chamber and an undressing room inside a former garage at the site of the crematorium.

Paul Sakowski demonstrates the Sachsenhausen gas chamber to a Soviet soldier

The photo above is a still shot from a film that was made by the Soviet Union and shown at the trial of the Sachsenhausen SS staff members.  The film is similar to the one taken by the Americans on May 3, 1945 after the liberation of Dachau; it shows how the gas was put into the chamber through pipes behind the wall of the chamber.

SS staff members at Dachau were prosecuted by an American Military Tribunal, but they were not charged with operating a gas chamber at Dachau because the names and nationality of the Dachau gas chamber victims were unknown.

The photo below was included in a book for visitors to the Sachsenhausen Museum.  It shows that the Sachsenhausen gas chamber was disguised as a shower room, just like the gas chamber at Dachau. After World War II ended, Sachsenhausen was in the Soviet zone of occupation, and the gas chamber was destroyed in the 1950s by the Germans.

Note the pipes near the ceiling with shower faucets hanging from the pipes.  The alleged Dachau gas chamber has shower faucets stuck into the ceiling and not connected to any pipes.  The film that the Americans showed at the Nuremberg IMT claimed that Zyklon-B poison gas entered the Dachau gas chamber through pipes that were hidden by a false ceiling. Today, visitors to  Dachau are told that the poison gas “could have been put into the gas chamber” through two windows on the east wall of the chamber.

The Sachsenhausen gas chamber had a glass window, which could have been used to throw the Zyklon-B pellets inside, but the Soviets claimed, in their film, that the Zyklon-B  gas entered the Sachsenhausen gas chamber through the water pipes.  (Instead of changing the gas chamber story, the East Germans just tore down the Sachsenhausen gas chamber.)

The photo above shows the execution spot at Sachsenhausen, which was only a few feet from the gas chamber.  It would have been much easier, and quicker, just to shoot the Soviet POWs, rather than kill them in a gas chamber, not to mention that it would have been less dangerous.

Ruins of cremation oven in the background

The photo above shows a sculpture in honor of the Jews who were killed at Sachsenhausen.  In the background you can see the ruins of one of the ovens in the crematorium.  I’m not sure, but this sculpture may have been moved since I took this photo in 2002.

Here is a quote from a blogger who recently visited Sachsenhausen and took a guided tour; he was told the following about the gas chamber:

At Station Z the prisoners were either gassed or shot in the back of the neck. The gassing was in a room that could fit apparently 25, comparatively small compared to a gas chamber of a extermination camp. They are disrobed and ushered into what looked like a shower room and the prisoners were told they were having a quick shower. At that point the door was shut behind them, and the SS guard had a liquid chemical in a glass bottle called Cyclon B (not sure about the spelling) it was then inserted into a duct that was connected to the gas chamber. The guard then presses the button that releases a metal pin that shatters the glass bottle releasing the chemical from the bottle, in order for Cyclon B to react and make a poisonous gas it had to react to warm air. Some of the big extermination camps believed if they had enough people in a gas chamber the body heat would create enough warm air for the chemical to react. In Sachsenhausen the pumped in warm air to start the reaction. Death would tale about 30-40 minutes, the prisoner would die from suffocation. The room was opened to let the excess gas escape and prisoners would come and clear the bodies and take them to the crematorium which was now based inside Station Z.

This quote is from another blog post from a visitor to Sachsenhausen:

The full weight of my visit is something that I feel more strongly now than when I was there. I keep trying to imagine what mind, what heart could possibly have killed those people in such horrifying and painful ways. It is a rare person with these qualities. Which is why the Nazis changed their methods; too many German SS soldiers were becoming alcoholics and committing suicide because they couldn’t cope with the sheer volume of murders they were expected to carry out. So it was at Sachsenhausen that the Nazis tested and perfected a system of murder that would dehumanize the process and would be used at all other camps; soldiers wouldn’t have to watch prisoners die, making it easier to kill groups of people. The gas chamber fulfilled this requirement. And so did a room at Sachsenhausen; it had double-thick walls and a Nazi soldier stood behind a false wall with a gun to a small hole. Prisoners were led in for a “physical” and when standing against a measuring stick they were shot in the neck.

The measuring stick was only used at those camps which were in the Soviet Zone of occupation after World War II.  There was no measuring stick used to kill prisoners at Dachau.


  1. Reblogged this on ElderofZyklon's Blog!.

    Comment by Cj aka Elderofzyklons Blog — December 23, 2014 @ 4:02 pm

  2. […] The floor of the Sachsenhausen gas chamber is shown in the photo above.  The gas chamber was disguised as a shower room with one floor drain.  In the background, you can see the ruins of the cremation ovens.  You can read about the Sachsenhausen gas chamber here. […]

    Pingback by How many of the Nazi gas chambers are still in existence? | Scrapbookpages Blog — August 30, 2013 @ 12:21 pm

  3. […] On the right side of the photograph above, one can see the structure which covered the ruined crematorium building and gas chamber in 1999.  You can see photos of the new structure that has been built at Station Z on this blog.  I previously blogged about the gas chamber at Sachsenhausen here. […]

    Pingback by Mass graves at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp Memorial Site « Scrapbookpages Blog — June 29, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

  4. Russian built fake Nazi ‘gas chamber’ at Sachsenhausen

    Hugo Haig-Thomas of Richmond, England, draws attention Sunday, May 18, 2008 to the German colonel punished by modern Germany for revealing what he witnessed as a prisoner of the Soviets in Sachsenhausen camp: the faking of a gas chamber

    I was held by the Russians in Sachsen-hausen, and made to build a gas chamber there; this is what I saw

    HAVE YOU heard of the case concerning Gerhart Schirmer, a retired Bundeswehr officer who was prosecuted a few years ago for contravening the law, this time in Germany, which makes any denial or diminution of the ‘Holocaust’ a criminal offence?

    As a young officer, Schirmer was captured in 1945 by the Russians and held in Sachsenhausen which the Russians continued to use as a prison. Although the War and Nazism were over, Schirmer and a few fellow-prisoners were forced to construct a gas chamber and execution room, to show the world what the Nazis had done. He described his experiences in a booklet entitled ‘Sachsenhausen – Workuta, Zehn Jahre in den Fängen der Sowjets’ (Grabert Verlag, Tübingen, 1992).

    When ‘certain groups’ drew the attention of the authorities to the booklet’s contents, it was seized and banned in Germany. This is described by Schirmer below (my translation). I understand Schirmer was given the choice of a fine or prison and he chose the fine because, being over ninety, he did not relish spending his last few years behind bars, especially as he had already spent eleven years of his life in prison.

    Hugo Haig-Thomas


    Col (retd) Gerhart Schirmer, Sachsenhausen – Workuta. Zehn Jahre in den Fängen der Sowjets (published by the right-wing and independent firm, Grabert Verlag, Tübingen, 1992).

    Following a decision by the County Court in Tübingen of 21.8.2002-12.9.2002, this booklet was withdrawn and prohibited on the grounds of racial incitement (file reference 4 Gs 937/02).

    Extracts from pages 10, 13 and 37.

    There exists a notarized, sworn affidavit about the construction of a gas chamber and a shooting facility [at Sachsenhausen concentration camp] in October/November 1945 by eight prisoners, of whom I was one. Briefly described, this ‘gas chamber’ was a shower room with 25 showerheads in the ceiling. This was supposed to give the impression that the gassing was conducted in it. Adjoining this, we erected a separate chamber with an opening, in front of which the offender would sit facing the opposite side in order to receive a shot in the back of his neck. At least this was what the guide had to explain [to Soviet visitors]. This [guide] was our Fritz Dörbeck who, as a translator, had to act out this piece of theatre because – born in Russia – he spoke perfect Russian. […]

    Concerning the falsifications in Sachsenhausen (autumn 1945):

    At the beginning of October 1945 Schirmer arrived at the former concentration camp, Sachsenhausen, which the Red Army had occupied since the end of April and which had been taken over by the NKVD [the much feared Soviet secret police that was responsible for political repression during the Stalinist era, akin to the Nazi Gestapo] who continued to run it as Special Camp No. 7. He describes some of his experiences from this time in his booklet ‘Sachsenhausen-Vorkuta’. Of special interest is his statement concerning the alterations made to the former camp crematorium by German internees, including Schirmer, on the orders from the NKVD. Schirmer later made a statement under oath about it in which he said:

    … in early October 1945 I was placed in Oranienburg [ie Sachsenhausen] concentration camp (barrack room 19) which continued to be used by the Soviets. After about fourteen days I was brought into the ‘Steinbau’ (stone buildings) and there, together with seven other prisoners, presented to the political officer of the camp, Lieutenant-Colonel Kolowantienkow. From him we received an order to carry out certain construction work in the so-called Front Zone (Vorzone) of the camp.

    Among the seven other prisoners was Dipl.-Ing. Fritz Dörbeck. He was the son of a German geologist who in about 1905 had been tasked by the Tsarist administration to carry out some geological research in the region of Vladivostok. Dörbeck grew up there and spoke fluent Russian. In 1918 the Dörbeck family returned to Germany via China. After his release in 1956, Fritz Dörbeck became the sales director of AEG-Telefunken in Ulm and I remained a close friend of his till his death in 1982.

    The seven prisoners also included one Emil Klein, a Sudeten German who also spoke fluent Czech and some Russian. He supervised our construction work and then disappeared from the camp after its completion. We suspected at the time that this Klein was the intermediary [Vertrauensmann] for the Soviets. The seven also included four construction workers and a plumber. I no longer remember their names.

    In the middle of October 1945 we were taken to the construction site. There, in the so-called Front Zone of the Camp, was a large shower room with an ante-room. The shower room was about 8×10 square metres and contained about twenty-five shower heads. In the ante-room were about fifty coat hooks.

    When we arrived, the material required for the construction work was already there. Under the directions of Klein, we now connected pipes from outside the building to the water supply pipes [Wassernetz]. Outside, on the outside of the wall, taps were attached. Only now was Dipl.-Ing. Dörbeck the first to understand what this work was apparently about.

    We built an additional concrete cell adjoining the bathroom measuring about 4×2 square metres with an opening into the ante-room of the shower room. The new opening from the ante-room to the newly built so-called ‘execution room’ [Erschießungsraum] was about 20 cms wide. It was made to look as if the offender who was to be shot would have stood at the entrance facing the concrete wall enabling the person with the gun to fire a shot into the back of his head.

    The construction works went on for about 14 days. When Dipl.-Ing. Dörbeck and I realised what was being built, we went to the political officer and told him that we refused to undertake any further work. The political officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Kolowantienkow, spoke – often heatedly – with Dörbeck for about fifteen minutes in Russian. Dörbeck later told me that the political officer had said that we would be summarily shot if we ceased to do any further work or let slip one word about it. The political officer said furthermore that we were receiving good rations (which was true) and that he – Dörbeck – would later be required to explain the installation to groups of Soviet visitors. The political officer also said that we would be well-treated in the future and receive good rations. As we were unable to prevent the construction of the installation, it seemed to make sense to us that we should continue the work and, in this way, learn what was being made there.

    After completion, at about the end of October 1945, Dipl.-Ing. Dörbeck was brought before the political officer alone and received precise instructions about the explanations he was to give to Soviet groups of visitors. He had to say the following: This installation, which was built by the Nazis, served to kill [Vernichtung] Jews and Soviet officer prisoners. Each day some 200 people were gassed and about twenty-five were shot. This went on from 1943 till 1945 (April).

    From about December 1945 until the end of 1947 an average of two tours a week, each consisting of some thirty to forty Soviet men, mostly soldiers and people from the GPU, and women, were escorted by Dörbeck round the installation. There were often officers amongst them who quite openly expressed doubts about the age of the installation because they saw that the concrete was new, that there were no bullet holes from the executions in the concrete wall and that the blood stains (red paint) were very meagre and unconvincing.

    Dörbeck reported to me after each tour. … After Oranienburg concentration camp was closed down in January 1950, Dörbeck and I were sent first to Lichtenberg (Berlin) Prison and then in September 1950 to Vorkuta in the northern Urals.

    Signed Gerhart Schirmer
    Rastatt, 16.12.86

    Schirmer placed this declaration, in the same wording, with a notary in 1988.

    Concerning the detention in Sachsenhausen and Vorkuta.

    In the Soviet Special Camp No 7 (Sachsenhausen) Schirmer was first barrack room leader and then worked as an ‘appointment assistant’ for the Jewish prisoners’ doctor, Dr Hirschfeld, whose surgery was situated in the pathology building. Schirmer ‘enjoyed’ the privilege of being permitted to sleep in Hirschfield’s surgery. In this way it was possible for him to go into the mortuary at night and count the bodies of people who had died during the day. In this way secret body counts were carried out over the years, alternating or working with fellow prisoners. When Schirmer was sentenced to a whole year’s solitary confinement in 1948, the secret counts were carried out in his absence by Artur Andres. In this way, the number of victims of the NKVD camp Sachsenhausen is known quite precisely. Schirmer reckons they amounted to about 24,600 (‘give or take a hundred’).

    When the NKVD camp was closed in January 1950, Schirmer, like many others, was still not free but was sent via Berlin-Lichtenberg and Brest-Litovsk to Vorkuta. Only when the last ‘war criminals’ were released early in 1956 after Adenauer’s negotiations in Moscow in 1955 was Schirmer able to return home. The fact that he survived four years of starvation in Sachsenhausen and the 6 years in Vorkuta borders on a miracle.

    Schirmer then entered the Bundeswehr [Federal German Army] and retired as a Lieutenant-Colonel.

    Gerhart Schirmer was rehabilitated by the Russian state. Without him the conversion work on the crematorium in the former concentration camp of Sachsenhausen might never have been known.
    This would probably explain why East Germans tore down the the construction.

    Comment by Gasan — November 15, 2010 @ 4:19 pm

    • There was allegedly a device for shooting Soviet POWs through a measuring stick at Buchenwald. You can read about it on this page of my web site:

      Both Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen were in the Soviet zone of occupation after the war. Dachau was in the American zone of occupation.

      At Dachau, there was no measuring stick. Instead, the story told by the guides at Dachau is that thousands of Russian POWs were taken to the SS shooting range at Herbertshausen, which was located in the Dachau suburb of Etzenhausen. Allegedly, 5,000 Russian POWs were shot for target practice at Herbertshausen, according to the prosecutors of the American Military Tribunal.

      You can see a photo of the shooting range at Herbertshausen at the bottom of this page on my web site:

      The German people are forbidden to know the truth and the staff members of the concentration camp Memorial Sites have to go along with the lies which the tourists love to hear.

      Comment by furtherglory — November 16, 2010 @ 2:49 am

      • The measuring stick used as a device for shooting Soviet POW’s is just laughable. The person, who built this “device” have never fired a firearm and has no clue what calibers the Germans were using. The smallest caliber was 7.92 mm. Or, was it a pistol? Then it must be Luger-Parabellum 9 mm. Would it go through that narrow slit without burning the wood?

        Comment by Gasan — November 19, 2010 @ 7:15 pm

      • The shooting range at Herberthausen looks like a regular rifle range to me. So, 5,000 Soviet POW’s were brought from USSR to Bavaria, that means accross the Europe, for target practice? 5,000 human being were transported, fed, taken care of, just to become the human targets.
        Germany has nothping to but to waste money on transporting Russian POW’s to be used as live targets for SS training, rather than print out the paper targets.
        Last month, I have purchased the paper targets at the range for $0.50 a piece. How much would cost in USD or Reichsmarks in 1940’s. I bet, it would be much less than transporting and feeding 5,000 of Soviet POW’s.
        On the other hand, how many Soviets have been sent to Dachau?
        Where are the proofs?

        Comment by Gasan — November 19, 2010 @ 7:42 pm

        • It was never proved in any of the trials after World War II that Soviet POWs were shot at Herbertshausen. This is just one of the many stories told by the concentration camp prisoners that was never proved. There was an “International Committee of Dachau,” composed of mostly Communist prisoners, who were in charge of the Dachau camp. One of the Committee leaders was a Russian prisoner. When the American liberators arrived, they questioned 20 of the most prominent prisoners for two days, and got all the stories of atrocities, such as the gas chamber and the shooting of Russian POWs.

          However, there were 90 Russian officers that were hanged at Dachau, according to Hitler’s Kommissarbefehl (Commissar Order).

          Under Hitler’s Commissar Order, given before the invasion of the Soviet Union, Russian POWs who were determined to be Communist Commissars were executed at Dachau and other major concentration camps in Germany. The Communist Soviet Union had both political Commissars and military Commissars whose job it was to keep their citizens or soldiers in line. The military Commissars were stationed behind the front lines in order to urge reluctant Soviet soldiers forward since only one out of every 5 men had been furnished with a rifle. The Soviet soldiers were expected to pick up a rifle after another soldier had been shot; those who tried to retreat were shot by the Commissars. If captured, the Commissars were under orders to organize an escape or otherwise create havoc in the POW camp. ( The “escape from Sobibor” was organized by a Russian soldier.) Soviet POWs who were not Commissars were not killed in the concentration camps, although many of them died because they were not treated as well as the other prisoners. The Soviet Union had not signed the Geneva Convention and were not treating German POWs well.

          Comment by furtherglory — November 20, 2010 @ 5:39 am

    • I think that you are correct about why the East Germans tore down the gas chamber. They didn’t want visitors to see that the gas chamber was built after the war. At Dachau, the shower room was modified in May 1945 so that the American prosecutors at the Nuremberg IMT could claim that it was a gas chamber. After it was learned that a gas chamber could not have operated the way the Americans claimed (because the gas was in the form of pellets), the outside wall of the Dachau shower room was modified to add two bins for putting in the pellets. You can see photos of these bins on this page of my web site:

      Today, there is a sign on the wall at Dachau which says that the pellets COULD have been put into the gas chamber through the openings on the wall. Tour guides at Dachau routinely tell visitors that the alleged gas chamber, disguised as a shower room, was used to kill prisoners.

      Comment by furtherglory — November 16, 2010 @ 3:14 am

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