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November 19, 2013

Edith Stein, a Jewish convert to Catholicism, who was gassed at Auschwitz

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 1:36 pm

The subject of saints, who were killed at the Auschwitz death camp, came up recently in the comments on my blog.  There were two Holocaust victims, who were canonized as saints in the Catholic church, after being murdered at Auschwitz.  One was Father Maximilian Kolbe, who was allegedly put to death, after surviving for a couple of weeks in a starvation cell in Block 11 in the main Auschwitz camp. He was a martyr because he had allegedly volunteered to die in place of another prisoner.

The other Auschwitz martyr, who was canonized a saint in 1998, is Edith Stein, who was gassed on the day that she arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau in the summer of 1942.  Before you start blaming this on Dr. Josef Mengele, the man who famously did selections for the gas chamber, he did not arrive at Auschwitz until May 1943.

There were two serious typhus epidemics at Auschwitz: one in the summer of 1942 and another in the summer of 1943, around the time that Dr. Mengele arrived.

In spite of the fact that Edith Stein was a Catholic and was living in the Netherlands, she was arrested in 1942 because she had been born a Jew; she was sent to the Westerbork transit camp, the same place from which Anne Frank was sent to Auschwitz.  From Westerbrook, she was sent, on August 7, 1942, on a train to Auschwitz.

Edith Stein was 51 years old at that time, and she was a Carmelite nun in the Catholic Church.  She had a PhD in philosophy and was experienced as a teacher in a University. However, there wasn’t much demand for her skills at Auschwitz, except for her experience as a nursing assistant.

If Dr. Mengele had been at the Judenrampe when she arrived at Auschwitz in the summer of 1942, he would have waved her to the right, so that she could help with the victims of the typhus epidemic.  In his absence, she was sent immediately to the gas chamber in “the little white house.”

You can see a photo, which shows the location of “the little white house” on the website of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum at

The photo on the Museum website shows that the reconstructed ruins of “the little white house” are right behind the building called “The Central Sauna,”  which was built to house a shower room and disinfection chambers for the clothes at Auschwitz.  This suggests that “the little white house” could have been a temporary location of a shower room and disinfection chambers for clothes, while the huge Sauna building was under construction.

The location of “the little white house” was at the end of the road, which ran from the Judenrampe, where Jews arrived on the trains, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.  The official story of the Holocaust is that the Jews were brought immediately in trucks to the gas chamber.  The German word for a disinfection chamber is Gaskammer; the little white house had a Gaskammer, and possibly a shower room.

Reconstructed ruins of "the little white house where Edith Stein allegedly was gassed

Reconstructed ruins of “the little white house” where Edith Stein allegedly was gassed

Fortunately, Edith Stein had an easy death in the gas chamber, on August 9, 1942, in “the little white house,” instead of contracting typhus and suffering for weeks in an Auschwitz barrack before dying of typhus.

In 1998, the year that Edith Stein was selected as a candidate for sainthood, the location of “the little white house” was unknown.  I went on a visit to the Auschwitz Memorial Site in 1998, and specifically asked my tour guide to show me “the little white house.”  I was very disappointed to learn that the location of the house was unknown.

When I returned to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 2005, the location of the house had been found and there had been a reconstruction of the alleged remains of the house.

The location of "the little white house" has been reconstructed

The location of “the little white house” has been reconstructed

Before the construction of the four large gas chambers at Birkenau (Krema II, Krema III, Krema IV and Krema V) was finished in 1943, the gassing of the Jews took place in two old farmhouses, which are now called “the little white house” and “the little red house.”

The little red house was located north of where the fourth gas chamber, called Krema V, was built. It was completely destroyed by the Nazis and nothing remains of it. The little red house was the site of the first gassing of the Jews at Birkenau, beginning in March 1942, around the time that the first typhus epidemic started. The little white house was put into operation as a gas chamber in June 1942.

The little white house was located just west of the Central Sauna, which was built in 1943 to house a shower room and numerous disinfection chambers used to kill lice in the clothing of the prisoners.

What did “the little white house” look like before it was torn down?

As far as I know, there is no photo of it, but it might have looked something like the little white house below.  This little house is located on the road to Auschwitz.

A little white house, near the Auschwitz camp in Poland

A little white house, near the Auschwitz camp in Poland

Note that the little white house, shown in the photo above, has what appears to be a brick foundation, and it is very small, just like “the little white house” where Jews were killed during a typhus epidemic in 1942.

What?  You don’t believe that converted Jews were killed in “the little white house” during a typhus epidemic? Oh, ye of little faith.