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June 26, 2011

When was the new crematorium at Dachau finished?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:25 am

The decision to build a new crematorium at Dachau was made in April 1942. An order was issued from Berlin on July 23, 1942 to begin construction of Baracke X, the new crematorium, at a cost of 150,000 Reichsmark.

When was construction of the building, as seen today, completed?  Did Baracke X look the same as it does now when American soldiers liberated the camp on April 29, 1945?  There have been persistent rumors that the new crematorium was built or modified after the Americans arrived.

Baracke X, the new crematorium at Dachau

A reader of this blog recently sent me an e-mail with two links to the web site of David Irving here and here.  These pages on Irving’s web site were put up in 1999.  Each page has a letter written by someone who claimed that the Baracke X building was not completely finished in April 1945 and that the construction was completed later by German POWs being held in the former camp.

According to the book Legacies of Dachau, by Harold Marcuse, “In the fall of 1945 the legend that the Americans had forced German POWs to build the crematorium after the war was not yet in circulation.”

Was the “legend” not in circulation yet because the crematorium was not COMPLETED until some time later, like maybe in 1947?

Marcuse quoted extensively from the diary of German general Gert Naumann in his book, but on page 85, he wrote “I did not attempt to find Naumann” to interview him about the crematorium.

This quote is from Legacies of Dachau:

But I did interview several other internees (of War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 at Dachau).  In the Dachau memorial site archive I found a copy of the diary of General Karl Schnell, who had donated the seven volumes of his magnum opus in 1993.  I called him at his home in Karlsruhe in July 1993, and he was quite willing to talk.  When I asked him whether he had been taken to the crematorium (when he was first brought to War Crimes Enclosure No.1), he answered: “I couldn’t have done that.  The crematorium wasn’t built yet.  The Americans had German POWs build it after I left the camp [in 1946].”  Even when I told him what Naumann, a good friend of his, had written, he refused to concede the point. Not wishing to listen to more, I ended the conversation.”

What had Naumann written that convinced Marcuse that the crematorium was there in 1945?  This quote is from page 81 of Legacies of Dachau:

He (Naumann) arrived in Dachau with a transport of other internees on the roll-call square, and a sign “to the crematorium” on the gatehouse.  The men were taken in groups of ten into a small wooden barrack, and returned reeling, some with bloody noses.

I have deduced from this quote that Naumann did not write that he was taken to see the crematorium, although he did report seeing a direction sign to “the crematorium.”  There were two crematoria at Dachau.  Why didn’t the sign say “to the crematoria” or “to the crematoriums”?

Old crematorium at Dachau

The first time that I visited Dachau, in 1997, I sat outside on a bench before going into Baracke X which is the building where the gas chamber is located.

Bench outside the Baracke X building at Dachau

I love brick buildings, and as I was sitting outside Baracke X, I couldn’t help but notice the front wall which seemed to me to have some sloppy construction that I would call “un-German.”

Outside wall of Baracke X, the crematorium

Those things on the wall looked like mailboxes to me, but why were there two of them?  I didn’t ask any questions because I didn’t want to show my ignorance.  It was only after I returned from my trip that I learned, from doing some research, that the things on the wall were bins for pouring the gas pellets into the gas chamber.

Closeup of bin for pouring in gas pellets

The gas pellets were poured through the bins and came out of two little windows inside on the east wall of the gas chamber.  I took the photo below when I returned to Dachau in 2007.

Window on east wall of Dachau gas chamber

It appears to me that this window was cut into the gas chamber wall AFTER the room was built.  A sign in the undressing room for the gas chamber tells visitors that gas pellets “could have been” put into the gas chamber through the two windows.

A couple of years ago, I compiled a list of descriptions written by American soldiers who were taken to see the gas chamber in 1945.  None of the soldiers mentioned the bins on the wall, nor the little windows in the gas chamber.  It could be that the bins were there, but they were closed and no light was coming through the little windows, so none of the soldiers noticed them.

It is possible that the person who made the film that was shown at Nuremberg did not notice the little windows.  The film showed the “engineer’s room” behind the west wall, where the SS men allegedly controlled the pipes through which the “lethal smoke” was put into the gas chamber.  The west wall was not shown in the film.

This controversy could be laid to rest if the Dachau Museum would just display a photograph of Baracke X, taken after the building was completed in 1943.  It is possible that the Germans never took a photo of the front of the building, but this is highly unlikely since I have seen old photos of the back of the building and the north end of the building.

A photo of the east wall of Baracke X, taken a day or two after the camp was liberated, is shown below.

A three-sided wooden shed hides the east wall of Baracke X Photo Credit: Donald E. Jackson

“engineer’s room” behind the east wall of Dachau gas chamber, 1945 Photo Credit: USHMM, courtesy of William and Dorothy McLaughlin Copyright: USHMM

On the right, in the photo above, are two control wheels for letting gas into the Dachau gas chamber.  To the left of one of the control wheels is a small peep hole with the cover lifted up.  This photo was taken by an American soldier who saw the gas chamber in 1945, after the camp had been liberated.

A film entitled Atrocities at Dachau, Story RG-60.0843, Tape 828 was made on May 3, 1945, the day that a group of US Congressmen visited the gas chamber. It shows the two black objects to the left of the control wheels in the center of the black and white photo above but the movie camera did not pan down to include the peep hole which can be seen in the photo.

In their report, the Congressmen wrote: “….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 valves were not on one of  the “outer walls” but rather in a hallway behind the west wall which was called “the engineer’s room.”  The quote is from 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.

14 Comments

  1. Dachau Crematoriums:
    In the summer of 1937 the Department of the Reichsführer SS in conjunctions with Camp Commandant Loritz negotiated with the Firm Müller of Munich-Allach for the delivery of an oven for the cremation of bodies. The outcome of these discussions were not recorded and not known. Up to this time the garage type looking building was used as a Funeral Parlor for the dead.It was equipped with a catafalque, a Christian Cross as well as candle stick holders. The deceased were kept in coffins with the lid nailed down and after a short service if appropriate taken to Munich for cremation.Mid 1940 the first oven was erected and used . As all deaths had to be reported to the Public Registrar (Standesamt now the Amtsgericht für Tote in Dachau) and to keep to very high mortality rate within the Camp secret from the public the SS established their own Office where Death Certificate were issued. I do not know if the Totenbuch was ever shown as evidence during any War Crimes Tribunals.
    During 1941 this oven did not have the capacity to handle over 2500 dead bodies in addition to the more than thousand Russian POW’s that had been shot. If you inspect the oven now you will notice that the sidewalls have buckled under the intense heat and are almost convex.
    The building of a new Crematorium commenced early in 1942 and was commissioned spring 1943, its design and efficiency of the so called Baracke X was mainly based due to the high influx of Russian prisoners which was a factor in its final completion.
    Source: “Der Ort des Terrors”pg 266 by Barbara Distel

    Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — June 30, 2011 @ 9:17 pm

    • http://dachaukz.blogspot.com/

      FG
      Two of your readers, Gason and Kageki did ask me once to write a blog or even a book of my experience after I became a POW, I did this in part and continued with a another rather long blog about the suffering of KZ inmates in Dachau without malice and in the hope that I was objective in my assessment. So, the seed was sown by them and I trust they will read it in the spirit as it is written.

      Comment by Herbert Stolpmann — August 16, 2011 @ 2:32 am

  2. “The Dachau Uprising took place because the people in the town did not want the SS to defend the town. If the town was already taken on April 27th, why did fighting between the SS and the townspeople take place on the 28th?”
    If the Eagles could come and collect Sam and Frodo from the slops of Mount Doom, why didn’t they just fly them there in the first place? When you are dealing in the realm of fiction and fantasy some questions have no answer.

    “I think the glass-covered peephole had just been installed on April 30, 1945 and the Congressmen might have seen it the next day.”
    What you have identified as a glass covered peephole, is a) not glass covered, b) not a peephole, c) not in an outer wall d) only a single and not a double installation.

    The congressmen were referring to something which they assumed would be installed later, and it was installed later but because Zyklon B crystal does not lend itself to valved inlets, the hinged bins were installed instead.

    Comment by littlegreyrabbit — June 28, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

    • I have updated my blog post to show what I was referring to as the “peep hole.” I also quoted from the report by the Congressmen which was dated May 3, 1945. I had never noticed before that the report says that the “valves” and “peep hole” were on “one of the outer walls.” You are correct that the peep hole is “not in an outer wall.” It is in an inner wall on the west side of the gas chamber. You may be right that the Congressmen were told what would be installed later, including a peep hole on the outer wall, and they wrote up their report before the peep hole was installed. I don’t think that the hinged bins were installed in May 1945 because none of the soldiers who were brought in trucks to see the gas chamber mentioned them. None of the American soldiers or newsmen who were there on April 29th and 30th mentioned the bins. A photo that was taken a few days after May 3, 1945 shows the wooden screen still in front of the east wall. According to the Chavez report, the screen was believed to be hiding a “compressor.”

      Comment by furtherglory — June 29, 2011 @ 8:36 am

  3. “I think the date of April 27th must be wrong. If there were Americans filming in the town two days before the soldiers officially arrived to liberate the camp, there would not have been a “Dachau Uprising.””
    Fortunately, you don’t have to take my word for it, but you can see a film sequence clearly identified as Dachau and 27 April in the first frames
    http://resources.ushmm.org/film/display/main.php?file_num=34
    “US army in Dachau; Germans flee Russian army

    Story RG-60.0864, Tape 834”

    “” I also believe that the ovens were put into the new crematorium in 1943. ”
    That as may be, but it doesn’t answer the question of when the first footage of the ovens was taken. Since the architectural plans are almost identical to the Majdanek crematorium – and that is certainly a fake – the odds are that the old crematorium was the only crematorium.

    “I think that the “glass covered peephole” was put in on April 30, 1945. The Congressmen arrived at Dachau on May 1, 1945. Their official visit to the new crematorium was on May 3, 1945, although they may have looked at the building on the day that they arrived.”

    The trouble is, they were describing something that wasn’t there. Because there is no valve or glass covered peephole – there is a Zyklon B bin on hinges. Perhaps the congressmen were told that a delivery mechanism would be soon installed and assumed it would be valves + peephole. Since this obviously wouldn’t work, the Allies had a change of plan after their visit. One, of course, would hope US Congressmen would not stoop to such behaviour. O tempora, O mores. Probably they don’t behave much differently to senior nazis or senior communists.

    “I recall seeing a photograph of the Congressmen at the door into the morgue room which was filled with bodies. I don’t think they would have stored bodies inside the building if the ovens had not been there at that time.”
    Or else they moved the bodies around – we are, after all, talking about a Psychological Warfare unit. They think differently from us common plods.

    Comment by littlegreyrabbit — June 28, 2011 @ 3:22 am

    • I watched the film sequence and I don’t think that it shows the town of Dachau. There is a sign post that identifies it as Dachau, but it doesn’t look like Dachau to me. I have been to the town twice and I did not recognize anything in the film as the town of Dachau.

      On the web site of the 45th Division, it says that “… the Division crossed the Danube, 27 April, took Munich on the 30th and as war ended was stationed near Dachau.” The 45th Division was on its way to Munich and did not receive orders to take Dachau until April 28th. They didn’t arrive in the town of Dachau until the morning of April 29th. On April 28th, the “Dacahu Uprising” took place. I blogged about this at
      https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/the-dachau-uprising-28-april-1945/

      The Dachau Uprising took place because the people in the town did not want the SS to defend the town. If the town was already taken on April 27th, why did fighting between the SS and the townspeople take place on the 28th?

      I found some information on this website: http://www.lonesentry.com/usdivisions/history/infantry/division/45th_infantry_division.html

      Quote from the above web site: “…for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving with Company G, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division, in action against enemy forces on 27 April 1945, in Germany. While engaged in taking the town of Neuberg, Germany,….”

      So on the 27th, the 45th Division was in the town of Neuberg, Germany.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 28, 2011 @ 7:00 am

    • You wrote: “The trouble is, they were describing something that wasn’t there. Because there is no valve or glass covered peephole – there is a Zyklon B bin on hinges.”

      I think the glass-covered peephole had just been installed on April 30, 1945 and the Congressmen might have seen it the next day. We know the Congressmen saw the peephole on May 3, 1945, the day that the film was made that was shown at the Nuremberg IMT on Nov. 29, 1945. I blogged about this here: https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/proof-of-the-nazi-gas-chambers-given-at-the-nuremberg-imt-on-nov-29-1945/

      On that blog post, the first photo shows the “engineer’s room” behind the gas chamber. The peephole in shown in the photo; this is the peephole that is shown in the film.

      I think the new crematorium, the Baracke X building, was there when the Americans arrived on April 29, 1945. Many soldiers wrote about seeing it that day. The Germans had run out of coal and the bodies were not being burned. Maybe that’s why the ovens weren’t filmed immediately.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 28, 2011 @ 7:32 am

    • Did you notice that the date on the film is written 4-27-45 instead of 27-4-45? In Germany, the date would have been written 27-4-45. I think that the American army also wrote dates with the day first, followed by the month and year. Whoever dated this film was not a military man.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 28, 2011 @ 7:37 am

  4. I would recommend exploring the USHMM film search which has a lot of the Dachau footage up.

    The first thing I noticed was that Signal Corps were filming in Dachau stadt on the 27 April – which is a full two days before they claimed to have liberated Dachau. This suggests it could have just been a little bit staged.

    Then going through the other clips, many of the dated early ones don’t include footage of ovens. For example I believe there are no stills of Senators or Congressmen in the vicinity of ovens. You will be aware of the Congressional report which included staements like: “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 peoplehole through which the operator could watch the victim die.” Which as you know did not exist.

    The first footage of ovens was George Stevens when all that is visible is a naked flame through a darkened door – one is required to use your imagination to see ovens. Then after George Stevens there is some shots of ovens which are just visible lit by some candles or something. Later you get clear clips including ovens.

    Its hard to date it, but there is the possibility that ovens did not exist in the first week or so in the “new” crematorium

    Comment by littlegreyrabbit — June 27, 2011 @ 5:05 am

    • I think the date of April 27th must be wrong. If there were Americans filming in the town two days before the soldiers officially arrived to liberate the camp, there would not have been a “Dachau Uprising.” I blogged about this at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/the-dachau-uprising-28-april-1945/ There were two former prisoners who lived in the town and continued to work at the camp. They were not at the camp on the last two days; they were in the town planning the uprising, along with some other prisoners who had escaped. The whole town was flying white sheets from the windows to signal that they wanted to surrender. I don’t think that the Dachau massacre was “staged.” I also believe that the ovens were put into the new crematorium in 1943.

      I think that the “glass covered peephole” was put in on April 30, 1945. The Congressmen arrived at Dachau on May 1, 1945. Their official visit to the new crematorium was on May 3, 1945, although they may have looked at the building on the day that they arrived. I recall seeing a photograph of the Congressmen at the door into the morgue room which was filled with bodies. I don’t think they would have stored bodies inside the building if the ovens had not been there at that time.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 27, 2011 @ 6:04 am

  5. If George Stevens was there for the liberation of Dachau with a team of OSS/Signal Corps filmmakers from Hollywood, maybe he ordered the Barracks X shower room to be tricked out to look more like a homicidal gas chamber for his movie that described gas issuing from the shower heads. Until I looked a bit further into the history of the camps this is how I always imagined millions of prisoners were dispatched by the Nazis. By the time of the Dachau and Nuremberg trials the gassing story was tightened up and evidence for heated Zyklon B pellets dumped directly into the chambers was put forward as the method. Since Dachau was a DP camp with a US Army base attached to it during those trials could not laborers from the camp have been ordered to refit the wall of the shower room with coal chute vents, or something similar, to give them Zyklon B pellet entry portals? An alternative explanation for these vents is that I have heard is that a shower was the final stage of the delousing program and fresh clothes and towels may have been passed through them to prisoners from a wooden shed outside that appears in liberation photos with corpses stacked in front of it. In later pictures of Barracks X this shed is missing.

    Comment by who+dares+wings — June 26, 2011 @ 12:33 pm

    • I forgot to put up a photo of Baracke X which was taken around May 1, 1945 after the camp had been liberated. I have added this photo to my post.

      The Dachau trials did not include any charges about a gas chamber. The Nuremberg IMT did include this charge but nothing about the pellets being dumped into the gas chamber was mentioned. During the Dachau trials, Dachau was War Crimes Enclosure No. 1 and it was filled with German “war criminals” not DPs.

      In the photo of the shed that I have added, the shed appears to have no door, or maybe the door is nailed shut. The Chavez Report by the U.S. Army said that there was a “compressor” inside the shed.

      Comment by furtherglory — June 26, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

    • That is exactly what a reader said who worked at Dachau that the chutes were built to make it look like a gas chamber. I’ve been wondering about it ever since.

      I’m also curious about the square hole between the chutes with a large “scar” that’s filled in with concrete. What is that supposed to be? It looks like something was botched and workers came in to fix it by cementing it up, but what was the reason?

      Comment by Kageki — June 27, 2011 @ 8:45 pm

      • I don’t know why the hole was made in the east wall, but I am guessing that it was an attempt to make a peep hole, but it was botched and the hole was covered up. On this page of my web site, I have a couple of close-up photos of the hole:
        http://www.scrapbookpages.com/DachauScrapbook/GasChamber/Exterior02.html

        The peep hole on the west wall was also botched and on the inside of the wall, it is a very large hole. It may have been too difficult to bore a small hole for a proper peep hole. The inside walls of the gas chamber are not tile; they are glazed brick. The brick may have crumbled when an attempt was made to bore a small hole.

        Comment by furtherglory — June 29, 2011 @ 7:53 am


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