The most important thing, as far as Hitler was concerned, was to exterminate all the Jews in Europe, more so than winning the war. That’s why the Nazis went to a great deal of trouble to perfect their method of gassing. I find this whole subject to be fascinating, so bear with me, dear reader.
Here is a quote from this blog about the gassing of prisoners at Dachau :
The Dachau camp was the prototype for other concentration camps. Although they did not carry out any mass killings here, a gas chamber, masked as a shower, was built on the site. It is believed that it was used to conducted (sic) trials, to prefect the method, so the chambers could be introduced at other death camps.
Another quote about the Dachau gas chamber is from this travel blog:
The S.S. had a gas chamber built within the new building [at Dachau], and included the now familiar fake sign indicating it was “showers.” In spite of the gas chamber’s presence, however, there are no mass murders documented here, as there were in the death camps. Some survivors, however, have said there were small groups or individuals killed in the gas chamber, presumably to test its effectiveness.
The Nazis left nothing to chance. They started testing gassing methods even before the “Final Solution” was planned at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942.
According to my private tour guide, on my trip to Auschwitz in 1998, the Nazis conducted the first mass killing of people using Zyklon-B in prison cell number 27 in Block 11 in the main camp on Sept. 3, 1941. Adolf Eichmann was visiting the Auschwitz camp on that day, although Commandant Rudolf Höss was away on business, according to the Auschwitz Museum guidebook. Since 1939, Adolf Eichmann had been the head of Department IV, B4 in the Reich Central Security Office (RSHA); Eichmann’s department was in charge of getting rid of the Jews in Europe. Karl Fritzsch, the camp commander and the deputy of Rudolf Höss, took it upon himself to carry out this first gassing, while his superior officer, Rudolf Höss, was away that day.
Cell #27 where first gassing test was done at Auschwitz
The subjects of this first mass killing on September 3, 1941 at Auschwitz were 600 Russian POWs and 250 sick prisoners. According to my tour guide, testing done in the previous months had determined the right amount of Zyklon-B needed to kill a room full of people. In a book entitled Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, edited by Israel Gutman and Michael Berenbaum, it was stated that the murder of 600 Soviet Prisoners of War and about 250 sick prisoners took place in Block 11 between September 3rd and September 5th. The authors also quoted from a report by the prisoner underground which said that 600 Soviet prisoners and 200 Poles were gassed in Block 11 on the night of September 5th and 6th.
Block 11 at Auschwitz where gas testing was first done
Baracke X at Dachau was the location of the gas chamber
Beginning in February 1942, following the Wannsee conference, Jews in Germany and in the German-occupied countries were rounded up by the Nazis and deported to the East. In spite of this, the decision was made in April 1942 to build a new crematorium with four ovens at Dachau. Four disinfection chambers and a homicidal gas chamber were to be included in the new building which was to be called Baracke X.
On the blueprints for Baracke X, the homicidal gas chamber was called a shower room, but each of the four disinfection chambers was called a Gaskammer, the German word for gas chamber. An order was issued from Berlin on July 23, 1942 to begin construction of Baracke X at a cost of 150,000 Reichsmark.
By the time that Baracke X was finished in 1943, millions of European Jews had already been killed in the gas chambers at Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor after being transported to the East, and millions more were destined to be sent to the death camps at Auschwitz and Majdanek. Dachau was mainly a camp for Communist political prisoners, anti-Fascist resistance fighters, Catholic priests, and Soviet POWs.
Tour guides at Dachau now tell visitors that the gas chamber at Dachau was not used for “mass gassing,” but it was used for testing gases and gassing methods.
It is now known that the Zyklon-B was put into pellets, the size of peas, which could not go through shower heads. Besides that, the pellets must be heated in order to release the poison gas. The Nazis were not able to figure that out, even though they used the Dachau gas chamber for testing for two years (1943 – 1945).
Finally, long after World War II was over, the American military figured it out. That’s why there are now two little windows on the outside wall of the Dachau gas chamber: the correct way to gas human beings is to throw the gas pellets through little windows and heat them with a heater placed on the other side of the room.
I previously blogged about the construction of the Dachau gas chamber here and here.