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October 16, 2017

The famous holes in the roof of the Auschwitz gas chamber

Filed under: Auschwitz, Holocaust — furtherglory @ 1:38 pm

When I visited the Auschwitz main camp for the first time in 1998, the first thing that I wanted to see was the famous gas chamber. So I hired a tour guide to take me there.

My 1998 photo of the gas chamber in the Auschwitz main camp

The photograph above shows the roof of the Krema I gas chamber and crematorium building in the Auschwitz main camp as it looked in October 1998.

On the right, you can see a red brick chimney of the type used for a stove. Behind it is another larger chimney over the area where the crematory ovens were located; there were two of these chimneys, but one is out of camera range in this photo. At the far end of the roof, there is another chimney which is not located over the gas chamber area.

The gassing of the victims in Krema I at Auschwitz was done by pouring Zyklon-B gas pellets into the gas chamber room through holes in the roof. One of these reconstructed holes is shown in the foreground on the left in the photo above; the other three holes are behind it.

The reconstructed holes are covered by wooden lids, just like the original holes; the lids can be lifted up today, just as they were by the SS men who poured the gas pellets into the gas chamber.

Jean Claude Pressac wrote in his book “Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers” that there were originally three holes in a straight line on the roof of Krema I.

According to the book entitled “Auschwitz 1270 to the Present,” by Robert Jan van Pelt and Deborah Dwork, the Nazis had “punched three square portholes through the morgue roof and covered them with tightly fitting wooden lids.”

The original holes for the gas pellets were closed up when the room was converted into a bomb shelter by the Nazis in 1944, although this was not mentioned in the construction plans.

After closing the original holes on the roof, two new holes were cut for a ventilation system when the gas chamber was converted into an air raid shelter. The ventilation holes on the roof have since been closed up, but can still be seen on the ceiling inside the gas chamber, as shown in the photo below.

Closed up vent hole on ceiling of Auschwitz I gas chamber

Contrary to Jean-Claude Pressac’s description of “three” original holes on the roof, a statement by Hans Stark, a member of the SS staff at Auschwitz, describes only two holes on the roof of Krema I.

The following quote from Hans Stark is from the book entitled “The Good Old Days,” by Klee, Dressen and Riess:

At another, later gassing–also in autumn 1941–Grabner ordered me to pour Zyklon B into the opening because only one medical orderly had shown up. During a gassing Zyklon B had to be poured through both openings of the gas-chamber room at the same time. This gassing was also a transport of 200-250 Jews, once again men, women and children. As the Zyklon B–as already mentioned–was in granular form, it trickled down over the people as it was being poured in. They then started to cry out terribly for they now knew what was happening to them. I did not look through the opening because it had to be closed as soon as the Zyklon B had been poured in. After a few minutes there was silence. After some time had passed, it may have been ten to fifteen minutes, the gas chamber was opened. The dead lay higgledy-piggedly all over the place. It was a dreadful sight.

Filip Müller, the author of “Eye Witness, Three Years in the Gas Chambers,” wrote that there were six openings on the roof and several SS men poured the gas pellets into the room. Müller wrote, regarding the job of the SS men:

They removed the covers from the six camouflaged openings. Then, protected by gas masks, they poured the green-blue crystals of the deadly gas into the gas chamber.

Müller also wrote that the noise from truck engines was used to “prevent anyone from hearing the shouting and banging on doors of the dying in the gas chamber.”

Pery Broad, an SS man who worked in the Gestapo office next door to the gas chamber, corroborates Müller’s description of six holes. Broad wrote a report, after he was captured by the British, in which he described how the gas pellets were poured into the Krema I gas chamber: “… the covers had been removed from the six holes in the ceiling…”

The web site of Emory University claims that there were originally five holes on the roof of Krema I:

Originally Crema 1 was equipped with three ovens with a morgue room behind them. In late 1941 the morgue room in Crema 1 was sealed up, five holes were punched in the roof and capped with small chimneys through which the Zyklon-B was dropped, a large fan was installed, and the doors were made gas tight.

The Emory University web site also states the following:

The Museum authorities located the clear scars of five holes in the roof and knocked out four of them for the restoration. Why they didn’t knock out the fifth as well is unknown, but the scar that shows where it was located and then patched can be clearly seen on the roof

The photo below is another view, taken from the roof of the gas chamber. The yellow building on the left is the former SS hospital. Survivors who worked in the hospital testified that they looked out the windows and observed SS men pouring Zyklon-B through the holes on the roof.

SS hospital was right next to the gas chamber in the main camp

Roof of Krema I with SS hospital in the background

On page 363 of their book “Auschwitz 1270 to the Present,” Van Pelt and Dwork state the following, regarding the gas chamber reconstruction:

“When Auschwitz was transformed into a museum after the war, the decision was taken to concentrate the history of the whole complex into one of its component parts. The infamous crematoria where the mass murders had taken place lay in ruins in Birkenau, two miles away. The committee felt that a crematorium was required at the end of the memorial journey, and crematorium I was reconstructed to speak for the history of the incinerators at Birkenau. This program of usurpation was rather detailed. A chimney, the ultimate symbol of Birkenau, was re-created; four hatched openings in the roof, as if for pouring Zyklon B into the gas chamber below, were installed, and two of the three furnaces were rebuilt using original parts. There are no signs to explain these restitutions, they were not marked at the time, and the guides remain silent about it when they take visitors through this building that is presumed by the tourist to be the place where it happened.

The photograph below shows a museum display of Zyklon-B pellets spilling out of an open can, and several other cans with Zyklon-B labels on them. This photo was taken in the Museum at the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where prisoners were gassed in a room disguised as a shower room. There is a similar display of Zyklon-B cans in the Auschwitz Museum.

Museum display shows Zyklon-B pellets

The Zyklon-B pellets sparkle like tiny landscaping rocks; they are a light blue-green color and about the size of garden peas. The manufacturer recommended that the pellets be heated to a temperature of 78.3 degrees in order to speed up the release of the poison gas fumes, but the reconstructed gas chamber has no means of heating the pellets nor circulating the gas fumes throughout the room.

Door into Air Raid Shelter


Start of Gas Chamber Tour

Reconstructed Gas Chamber

Interior of Reconstructed Gas Chamber

Holes in ceiling of gas chamber

Introduction to Auschwitz I

Back to Photo Gallery 2




  1. The holes there now do not “fit” the original configuration of the building:

    Comment by blake121666 — October 17, 2017 @ 9:41 am

  2. FG

    Good job explaining things for the uninitiated….
    Here is the most important point…..Zyclon B is a slow acting gas…..when in a suitable environment….80 degrees or above with low humidity, and good circulation with fans the ZB off gasses 10% per hour……so when people say it only took 5-15 minutes to kill all in the room you know they are lying.
    That would mean that using 10% of its use the people were dead….actually it would of taken a good hour to provide the right amount of gas to kill people.
    Not only that, you would need 10x the amount of ZB to kill all those people in the shot time of 10 minutes or less.
    I believe it was Jean Claude Pressac… that said 95 % of the ZB that was used in the camps was for fumigation and 5% for killing if so then there sure was waste of ZB which you know the Germans would not of been so foolish to do.

    If you want to hear from an expert read this article…The world famous Rudolf Report….


    Comment by Jim Rizoli — October 16, 2017 @ 2:32 pm

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