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March 14, 2013

Why did the Nazis build a gas chamber at Dachau if they weren’t going to use it?

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 12:18 pm

Most of the tour guides at Dachau tell visitors that the gas chamber at Dachau was never used.  A few of the tour guides tell tourists that the Dachau gas chamber was used “a few times for individual gassing, but not for mass gassing.”   Sometimes, the tourists are told that the gas chamber at Dachau was used, but only for testing the amount of gas needed to kill people. Another explanation given for the Dachau gas chamber, that was never used, is that it was built to train the SS men in how to operate a gas chamber.

This quote is from a blog post which you can read in full here:

Although Dachau was equipped with this gas chamber, the chamber was never used. Historians are not sure why.

The last time that I visited the Dachau Memorial Site in May 2007, there was a sign on the wall of the undressing room with these words:

Gas Chamber

This is the center of potential mass murder. The room was disguised as “showers” and equipped with fake shower spouts to mislead the victims and prevent them from refusing to enter the room. During a period of 15 to 20 minutes up to 150 at a time could be suffocated to death through prussic acid poison gas (Zyklon B).

Note the very clever wording: “potential mass murder” and “could be suffocated to death.”  Up to 150 people at a time could have potentially been suffocated to death with Zyklon-B gas, but strangely, this never happened.

The BarackeX building where the Dachau gas chamber is located

The Baracke X building where the Dachau gas chamber is located

Beginning in February 1942, Jews in Germany and the German-occupied countries were rounded up by the Nazis and deported to the East, according to plans made for “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question in Europe” at the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942.  It was at this point, in April 1942, that the Nazis decided to build a homicidal gas chamber in a new building at Dachau called Baracke X, which is shown in the photo above. This was like locking the barn door after the horse had been stolen.  With all the Jews being sent to the east, whom were the Nazis planning to gas at Dachau?

On the blueprints for Baracke X, the homicidal gas chamber was called a shower room, but each of the four disinfection chambers in the same buillding was called a Gaskammer, the German word for gas chamber. The photo below shows the door into one of the disinfection chambers.  A few of the tour guides at Dachau tell visitors that these rooms were homicidal gas chambers.

Door into one of the four disinfection chambers in Baracke X at Dachau

Door into one of the four disinfection chambers in Baracke X at Dachau

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 (most of whom were Catholic) and Soviet POWs.  Dachau was not an “extermination camp” for the genocide of the Jews.

When American soldiers liberated Dachau on April 29, 1945, they saw the disinfection chambers at Dachau and assumed that they were being used to gas the Jews at Dachau.

The Report of the Atrocities Committed at Dachau Concentration Camp, signed by Col. David Chavez, Jr., JAGD, 7 May 1945 is quoted below:

The new building had a gas chamber for executions… the gas chamber was labeled “shower room” over the entrance and was a large room with airtight doors and double glassed lights, sealed and gas proof. The ceiling was studded with dummy shower heads. A small observation peephole, double glassed and hermetically sealed was used to observe the conditions of the victims. There were grates in the floor. Hydrogen cyanide was mixed in the room below, and rose into the gas chamber and out the top vents.

The tour guides at Dachau no longer claim that the poison gas was mixed in the basement of Baracke X, from which it rose through the floor drains and was then vented out of empty light fixture boxes, as was explained in the U.S. Army Report. The first time that I visited Dachau in 1998, there was a sign in one corner of the gas chamber which said, in 5 languages, that the gas chamber was never used, or never put into operation.  So why did the Nazis build a gas chamber if they weren’t going to use it?  Did they anticipate that some day there would be a huge Holocaust industry and they didn’t want to disappoint the thousands of tourists who would want the thrill of seeing a dark, creepy gas chamber with a 7.6 ft. ceiling?

As far as I know, no explanation has ever been given for why the Nazis would have built a gas chamber at Dachau, but then never used it.

As the old saying goes: “You had to be there.”  If you have stayed with me this long, dear reader, you deserve an explanation of what happened at Dachau and why, which I am now going to give you.

Building in town of Dachau

Building in town of Dachau

By March 1933, the Nazis has taken over every town in Germany, including Dachau.  The building on the left in the photo above is where the Nazis raised their flag on March 9, 1933, after they took over the town of Dachau.

An important policy of the Nazi party in Germany was called Gleichschaltung, a term that was coined in 1933, to mean that all German culture, religious practice, politics, and daily life should conform with Nazi ideology. This policy meant total control of thought, belief, and practice, and it was used to systematically eradicate all anti-Nazi elements, after Hitler came to power in January 1933.

Under the Gleichschaltung policy, every member of the Nazi party was given a second job, in addition to his regular job.  Heinrich Himmler was given a second job as the supervisor of the German prisons.  On his first visit to the Munich prison, Himmler noted that the prison was overcrowded because Communists had been rounded up after the fire in the German Reichstag on February 27, 1933 and sent to “wild camps” or to regular prisons, including the Munich prison.

On March 22, 1933, Heinrich Himmler opened the first Nazi concentration camp in Germany at an old factory just outside of the town of Dachau. The first prisoners were 200 Communists who had been taken into “protective custody” after the burning of the Reichstag on the night of February 27, 1933; the justification for the imprisonment of the Communists was that they were “enemies of the state.”

Here is a little history of Germany to put everything into context:

Following World War I, Germany became a democratic Republic with a Constitution based on the American Constitution. After Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany on January 30, 1933, a new congressional election was required to confirm his appointment. In the election which took place on March 5, 1933, the Nazis gained enough seats in the Reichstag (German Congress) so that, with the help of other conservative parties, they were able to pass legislation on March 7th, which ended state’s rights in Germany. This legislation allowed Hitler to unite Germany for the first time into “ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer” (one people, one empire, one leader).

After this legislation was put into effect on March 9, 1933, all the German states were now controlled by the federal government, under the rule of the Nazis; the governors of each state and all the government positions of any importance were now appointed by the Nazis, and of course, the appointees were loyal members of the Nazi party. The Nazi term for this new unity among the German people was Gleichschaltung; it meant that everyone was on the same page with all the people pulling together, united in their beliefs and objectives.

After March 9, 1933, the former German states, such as Prussia and Bavaria, no longer had state’s rights and the German people were now ruled by one government and one leader for the first time ever in the history of the German people.

One reason that the Nazis wanted to bring all the German states under their central control was to make sure that Bavaria would never again be taken over by the Communists, which was what happened on November 7, 1918 when Jewish leader Kurt Eisner led a revolution, forced the King of Bavaria to resign, and then set up a Communist Republic in Bavaria.

Building in town of Dachau where prisoners were kept before the camp was opened

Building in town of Dachau where prisoners were kept for one day before the concentration camp was opened

The building, shown in the photo above, is located down the street from the Brückenwirt Inn at Brunngartenstrasse 5 in the town of Dachau. This building was being used as a gymnasium, at the time that it figured prominently in Dachau history. It was here that the Communists, who had been arrested by the Nazis on March 21, 1933, were first brought when they were taken into “protective custody.” The concentration camp at Dachau did not open until the next day.

The basic plan of the Nazis, who were Fascists, was to save the country of Germany from the Communists.  The original purpose of the Dachau camp was to lock up the Communists and other “enemies of the state,” not to gas the Jews.  The Jews were being “transported to the East” to be gassed.  So a gas chamber at Dachau was totally unnecessary.

No gas chamber existed at Dachau until the American liberators of the camp created one for the benefit of tourists.