Scrapbookpages Blog

July 12, 2013

Poison gas sometimes came through the showerheads at Auschwitz, but other times, it was just water

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 11:42 am

Remember the scene in Schindler’s List, when a group of women are in the shower at Auschwitz, thinking that they are going to be gassed, but then a miracle happens and waters comes out of the shower faucets?

When I first saw Schindler’s List, years ago, I couldn’t understand this scene.  I knew about the gas chambers, disguised as showers, but I didn’t know that water could sometimes come out of the shower heads inside a gas chamber.

In the scene in Shindler’s List, as the women exit the shower room, they look across the road and see prisoners descending the steps into the undressing room of one of the two large gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau. [This is a small mistake in the film.  The gas chamber that was across the road from the Sauna was Krema IV, which had no underground rooms.]

These women were Schindler’s Jews, so they had been sent into a shower room, not a gas chamber.  Or were the Holocaust gas chambers multi-purpose rooms, and sometimes water would come out, instead of gas?

The showerheads in the scene in Shindler’s List look like the ones in the photo below, which I took inside the gas chamber at Mauthausen.  Note the sign on the wall, which leaves no doubt that this room is a gas chamber. You can’t have a Nazi camp without a gas chamber, as everyone knows. But was this room also used for showers? These pipes were real water pipes, connected to a water source.

Showerheads hanging from the ceiling of the Mauthausen Gaskammer

Showerheads hanging from the ceiling of the Mauthausen Gaskammer

Note the peephole in the door of the gas chamber in the photo above.  A door with a peep hole, similar to this one, was shown in the shower scene in Schindler’s List.

Sorry to keep you in suspense, but I am finally going to get to the subject of my blog post today.

Holocaust survivor Gena Turgel had an experience just like the women in Schindler’s List.  She was inside a gas chamber at Auschwitz, but she lived to tell about it.  You can read her story in an article, published in January 2005, entitled Amazing escape from Auschwitz gas chamber on this website.

This quote tells her story:

Gena Turgel entered the gas chamber at Auschwitz and lived to tell the tale.

In the winter of 1944, the 21-year-old [Gena Turgel] was made to strip naked with her mother inside the [Auschwitz] concentration camp’s extermination block [building] and wait, but miraculously the deadly poison was never released.

“We were trembling. I didn’t know where we were. Inside, it looked terrible. A woman came in that I recognised (sic) from a previous camp. She was very shocked I was there and went out again.

“We waited a while and then water came through the walls. It was wonderful. For many weeks we had had no water on our backs. We were all drinking it.

“As we came outside, the women there said how wonderful it was to see us. They screamed with happiness. I didn’t understand what they meant. I said ‘What are you shouting about?’

“They said ‘Don’t you know? You were in the gas chamber.’ I lost my voice. I couldn’t produce any saliva.”

Gena puts her survival down to a “power over a power” and believes that God was watching over her.

“The woman who came in. I never saw her again. Perhaps she did something.”

More than 60 years on, the great-grandmother still cannot believe how lucky she was to escape death.

“Many times, I have to touch myself to check I’m really alive. One appreciates life so much.”

Could Gena Turgel have actually been inside a real shower room, not a gas chamber?

The showers at Auschwitz-Birkenau [the extermination camp] were in a building called “the Central Sauna,” which is shown in my 2005 photo below.

The Central Sauna building at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The Central Sauna building at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The shower room in the Central Sauna is shown my 2005 photo below.  The showerheads have since been removed, but I don’t think the shower heads were on the wall, as Gena described.

The women's shower room in the Central Sauna at Auschwitz-Birkenau

The women’s shower room in the Central Sauna at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Showerhead hanging from the ceiling in Mauthausen gas chamber

Showerhead hanging from the ceiling in Mauthausen gas chamber

I have never seen any photos of a gas chamber, nor a shower room, which had shower heads on the wall, instead of the ceiling, as described by Gena Turgel.

But I wasn’t there.  Maybe Gena was sent to the gas chamber, but by some miracle, water came out of showerheads on the wall, not the ceiling.