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August 8, 2011

the undressing rooms at Auschwitz were larger than the gas chambers

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 1:58 pm

I was re-reading a previous blog post that I wrote about the great escape from an Auschwitz gas chamber by Irene Zisblatt, one of the Holocaust survivors featured in Spielberg’s “The Last Days,” when I realized that I had made a terrible mistake. In writing my previous post, I had assumed that Irene would have gotten stuck in the undressing room door, not in the gas chamber door. Now I realize that Irene’s story makes sense. She would not have gotten stuck in the undressing room door because the undressing rooms of both Krema II and Krema III had a greater capacity than the gas chambers in these buildings.

Ruins of Krema III show the undressing room in the foreground and the ruins of the gas chamber on the right

Zisblatt’s story is that she was flung out of the gas chamber in Krema III after she got stuck in the door because the room was too full, and then she was saved when she was tossed over a 10 ft. barbed wire fence, by a Sonderkommando, into an open railroad car that was headed to the Neuengamme camp in Germany.

Old photo of Krema III surrounded by a 10 ft. fence

Note how close the railroad tracks are to the Krema III gas chamber building, shown in the photo above. 

The entrance to the Krema III undressing room was at the western end of the camp shown in the background

The photo above shows the ruins of the Krema III undressing room, which was called Leichenkeller 2 (Corpse Cellar #2) on the blueprint of the building. The victims entered the undressing room by descending the stairs shown in the background in the photo above. Note that the stairs are very short, since the undressing room was only about five feet underground. To the left in the photo above are the steps of the International Monument which is between Krema II and Krema III at the western end of the former Auschwitz-Birkenau  death camp.

Ruins of undressing room in Krema II at Birkenau

The Jews, who were selected for gassing, walked down the steps into the undressing room in Krema II or Krema III; frequently, one of the inmate orchestras would be playing classical music, which the victims could hear. The place where the orchestra played was southeast of the Krema III building; the location was outside the barbed wire enclosure around Krema III, and right next to the soccer field. This was the location where concerts were held for the prisoners who worked while the prisoners, who had not been selected to work, were gassed. The victims were told that they were going to take a shower, after which they would have a nice hot meal. They took off all their clothing, thinking that they were going to take a shower, and then proceeded to the end of the long undressing room where there was a door into a Vorraum (vestibule).

On the left wall of the vestibule was a door into the gas chamber, which was located at a right angle to the undressing room. On the right wall of the vestibule was a door into another anteroom which had an exterior entrance for the SS men. On the back wall of the vestibule was a single elevator which was used to bring the bodies up to the crematory ovens after the victims had been gassed. (The elevator was a bottleneck because as many as 3,000 Jews would be gassed in a single day.)

Blueprint of Krema II — Krema III was a mirror image of Krema II at Auschwitz-Birkenau

On the blueprint shown above, the undressing room is on the right and the gas chamber is in the center, perpendicular to the undressing room.  This blueprint is for Krema II, which was a mirror image of Krema III.

Entrance into the Krema III gas chamber for the SS men at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The photo above shows the ruins of Krema III with the steps down to the basement entrance in the center of the photo on the right-hand side. In the foreground is the ruins of the roof of the anteroom which the SS men entered. From the anteroom, there was a door into the vestibule or the Vorraum which the victims entered from the undressing room and then proceeded into the gas chamber. A peephole in the door of the gas chamber allowed the SS men to stand in the Vorraum and watch the victims die.  (The gas chamber could also be used as a bomb shelter for the SS men in case of an Allied air raid.)

There was an obvious problem with the undressing room being larger than the gas chamber.  That meant that there were more victims in the undressing room than the gas chamber could handle.  Why didn’t the German engineers recognize this problem sooner? Krema III was put into operation in 1943 and it was more than a year later that Irene got stuck in the gas chamber door.  This must have happened many times before Irene’s escape. In fact, it must have been like a Three Stooges comedy when all the Jews in the undressing room tried to get into the gas chamber which they thought was a shower room.  There would always have been someone who could not get into the gas chamber.

Ideally, the two underground rooms in Krema II and Krema III should have been allocated so that the gas chamber was in Leichenkeller 2 and the undressing room was in Leichenkeller 1.  In fact, the naming of these rooms suggests that the Jews were herded into Leichenkeller 1 first.  This makes sense because there was easy access into Leichenkeller 1 through the SS entrance which faced the main road through the camp. To enter Leichenkeller 2, the Jews had to walk around the building, instead of going right into the undressing room after they entered the gate into the enclosure around the building.

The location of the SS entrance, shown in the center in the photo above, was not on the original blueprints. Krema III was originally planned to be built at Auschwitz I, the main camp. The original blueprints for Krema II and Krema III called for corpse cellars that were completely underground and included a corpse slide which ended in front of the Leichenkeller doors, but this slide was never built. The steps down to the SS entrance were built instead.

Krema III was located on the right-hand side of the east-west main camp road, while Krema II was on the left side of the road, as you enter the camp. A short road, perpendicular to the main camp road, connected the two barbed-wire enclosures of the Krema buildings. Directly opposite the gate into the Krema III barbed-wire enclosure was an identical gate into the Krema II enclosure.  This short road is now covered by the International Monument.

Undressing room in foreground; SS entrance on the right

The exterior entrance to the two underground rooms in Krema III is shown in the photo above; this staircase was on the south side of the building, facing the main camp road. This entrance led to the Vorraum of Krema III so that the SS men could enter Leichenkeller 1 without going through Leichenkeller 2, which was the undressing room. In case of emergency, the gas chamber could be used as a bomb shelter for the SS men working in the area, since it had a gas-tight air raid shelter door.

The SS entrance would have been ideal for an entrance for the Jews, instead of having the Jews walk around the building and enter through Leichenkeller 2.  The undressing room should have been in the smaller Leichenkeller 1 and the gas chamber in Leichenkeller 2.  That way, the SS men could have used the undressing room for a bomb shelter instead of the gas chamber and the problem of having too many people in the undressing room would have been solved.  Of course, this would have meant that Irene could not have made her great escape.  I’m sure that she could have come up with another story that was just as good.

You can listen to Fred Leuchter give his opinion about the gas chamber in Krema II here.  He tested the walls of Leichenkeller 1 in Krema II and found no traces of residue from the use of gas.  What if the gas chamber was actually in Leichenkeller 2 which would make more sense?  The undressing room could have been in Leichenkeller 1 after the German engineers realized that having the undressing room larger than the gas chamber had created a problem.

You can read more about Irene Zisblatt here and see a video of her telling her great escape story.

2 Comments »

  1. Stand up, try to take your clothes and shoes off and hang them on a peg or pile them on the floor without taking up what you would call ‘elbow room’ plus space for clothes. Maybe see how many people can accomplish this feat in a closet at the same time, next see how many people you can pack into said closet, standing room only.

    The solution to your observation is so simple I find it hard to believe you made it honestly. Especially if you consider that the undressing process was intended to delay realisation and panic until victims entered the chamber with a minimum of coercion.

    Comment by Arthur — November 23, 2016 @ 4:45 pm

  2. This is great! the shoah industry has left a monument for holocaust researchers like youself and myself ….the more they force LIES the more they leave EXPOSED !!! ET AL .

    Comment by Robert Schmidt — August 9, 2011 @ 4:05 am


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