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June 3, 2014

the undressing room for the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp

Filed under: Holocaust — Tags: , , — furtherglory @ 10:52 am
Gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp

Gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp, looking toward the entrance into the room

As far as I know, there was no undressing room for the Krema I gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp.  I started thinking about this today when I read the following on the website of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum:  “… the morgue at crematorium I in the main camp was adapted for use as a gas chamber. Several hundred people at a time could be killed in this room.”

Note that there is no mention of an undressing room for the gas chamber in “crematorium I.” Before going into the gas chamber, the prisoners were told that they were going to take a shower.  They must have known that something was wrong when they were not told to take off their clothes.

Were the Jews herded into the Krema I gas chamber with their clothes on?  I don’t think so.  This would have been a tremendous waste of clothing at a time when Germany was being bombed into a pile of rubble, and there was a great shortage of clothing. It would have been very difficult to remove the soiled clothing from the dead bodies, after the gassing.  The German people are noted for being efficient; they do not make work for themselves by doing something stupid like gassing prisoners with their clothing on.

Remember the story of Josef Schillinger, an SS man who was shot by a woman prisoner when he ordered her to undress for the gas chamber?  I blogged about this at https://furtherglory.wordpress.com/2010/02/11/josef-schillinger-the-ss-man-who-was-shot-in-the-undressing-room-of-gas-chamber-2-at-auschwitz/

Entrance into the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp

Entrance into the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp

The photo above shows the entrance into the crematorium in the main Auschwitz camp, which had a gas chamber (Krema I) in the morgue room.  There were 800 to 900 prisoners gassed at a time, but there was not enough space outside the building for that many people to undress.  If the women had been ordered to undress, outside the building, in front of the men, this could have resulted in a riot and possibly the killing of another SS man.

Filip Müller, a Sonderkommando Jew, who wrote a book entitled Eye Witness Auschwitz, Three years in the Gas Chambers, confirms  that the Jews entered the gas chamber in the main camp, with all their clothes on, and even carried their luggage with them into the Krema I gas chamber.

Strangely, the gas chambers at the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp all had undressing rooms, even the temporary gas chambers in “the little white house” and “the little red house.”

This quote is from the website of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum:

In the spring of 1942, a second gas chamber went into operation in a specially adapted farmhouse whose owner had been expelled. The house stood outside the fence of the Birkenau camp, which was then under construction. Camp commandant Rudolf Höss and Adolf Eichmann, the Reich Main Security Office representative in charge of deportation to extermination center, close this house together during a visit by Eichmann.

The adaptation work involved partially walling up the windows and reconfiguring the interior. According to Höss, about 800 people at a time could be killed in the house. Two barracks for undressing were erected nearby. This gas chamber was withdrawn from service in the spring of 1943, after the entry into use of the new gas chambers at crematoria II-V.

A second house belonging to a farmer who had been expelled, and also standing outside the Birkenau camp fence, was adapted as a gas chamber in mid-1942. Höss estimated that 1,200 people at a time could be killed in this house. Three barracks for undressing were erected nearby. This gas chamber was also withdrawn from use in the spring of 1943. It was put back into use in the spring of 1944, at the time of the extermination of the Hungarian Jews.

The above quote shows that the Nazis realized the importance of an undressing room for a gas chamber.

Model of the Krema II gas chamber and undressing  room

Model of the Krema II gas chamber and undressing room

The photo above shows a model of the Krema II gas chamber at Auschwitz-Birkenau, which is an exhibit in the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. On the left is the underground undressing room. The gas chamber is shown on the right side of the photo. A small elevator was used to lift the bodies up to the cremation ovens, which were on the ground floor of the building.  On the left side of the photo above, there is an old black and white photo of the ovens in Krema II.

Ruins of the undressing room is on the right

Ruins of the undressing room of Krema II at Auschwitz-Birkenau are on the right, and the oven room ruins are in the foreground

The photo below shows a poster outside the Krema I gas chamber in  the main camp.

Poster outside the Krema I gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp

Poster outside the Krema I gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp

The photo above shows a poster, which is located outside the gas chamber building in the Auschwitz main camp. On the left, the poster depicts the layout of the gas chamber building, as it originally looked, and on the right, the way it looked after the gas chamber was reconstructed by the Soviet Union in 1947.

The gas chamber room in the main Auschwitz camp was originally used as a morgue to store corpses prior to cremation in the ovens. According to the model on the poster, neither the gas chamber nor the morgue included the area where a washroom was once located. This means that the victims had to go through two small rooms to get to the gas chamber, and that neither the morgue, nor the gas chamber, had a floor drain since the only drain that can be seen today is in the washroom area of the reconstructed gas chamber. The gas chamber, as seen by tourists today, includes the area of the former washroom.

When the gas chamber building in the main camp was converted into an air raid shelter in September 1944, a new door was cut into the gas chamber room, as shown on the right hand side of the poster.

During the time that the building was used as an air raid shelter, the morgue room was divided into four small rooms. During the reconstruction in 1947, the walls of the small rooms in the morgue were removed, along with the wall of the small washroom. The washroom is designated by the letter b on the poster shown in the photo above. The wall of the washroom is shown as a dotted line in the diagram on the right, which shows the gas chamber the way it looks today.

The red arrow marks the present tourist entrance, which is the entrance through which the victims entered. The victims had to first walk through a small room which the poster says was a room for “storage for spare gratings” at that time. When the building was used as a morgue, this same room was used as a “laying out room.”

Why is all this important?  The devil is in the details.  When people start studying the details of the Holocaust, they turn into Holocaust deniers and become criminals in 19 different countries.  If you don’t want to become a criminal,  forget that I ever told you about the lack of an undressing room for the gas chamber in the main Auschwitz camp.