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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.

July 16, 2012

Wooden enclosure found at Dachau Baracke X by American liberators

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , — furtherglory @ 10:11 am

Photo taken by American soldier at the liberation of Dachau Photo Credit:

(Click on the photo above to enlarge)  Note the wooden enclosure on the far left side of the photo.

Photo taken on April 30, 1945 at Dachau shows wooden enclosure  Photo Credit: Donald E. Jackson

I have enhanced the two old photos above, using Photoshop, so as to show as much detail as possible. The building shown in the photos is Baracke X which was the building where the gas chamber and crematory ovens were located. In the photo immediately above, it appears that the wooden enclosure has a door into it. The door that is leaning against the structure appears to have been removed from some place else and put there.

Note what appears to be two German civilians on the left in the photo above. According to Donald E. Jackson, who took this photo in May 1945, “We used civilian wagons to haul the bodies and you can see them in other photos. The civilians loaded the bodies and unloaded them into the trench [at Leitenberg].”

Photo of Baracke X taken on April 30, 1945 after Dachau was liberated

Note that the wooden enclosure is shown in the old photo above, taken one day after Dachau was liberated. My  2007 photo below shows Baracke X as it looks today.

Baracke X at Dachau — the wall that was hidden behind the wooden structure is on the far left

Close-up of the section of the Baracke X wall that was hidden by the wooden enclosure

A discussion about the first photo shown above, written by a family member of the person who took the photo, can be read here.  The photo was sent to the Dachau Memorial Site, where a person who works there identified the photo and wrote this description:

Bodies in a farmer’s cart or wagon in front of Barack X (the crematorium), It’s possible they had been brought there by the other prisoners after liberation as part of the clean up. This could also be part of the clean up itself and the bodies are on their way to the Leitenburg mass graves. The chimney position shows us that the picture has been flipped. In the background, one can see the wooden enclosure that was used to hide the viewing port and pellet chutes for the camp’s small gas chamber. The door is broken and ajar, as it is in pictures of [it] in the museum.

Note the misspelling of the words Baracke and Leitenberg by a person who works at Dachau.

The second old photo above shows that the first photo, which this person is analyzing, has not been “flipped,” a term which I understand to mean “reversed.”  But forget all that.  The important point here is that someone who works at the Dachau Memorial Site says that the wooden enclosure at Baracke X was used to hide the viewing port (peephole) and the pellet chutes for the gas chamber.

So the official story of Dachau now is that the chutes and the peephole were there when the camp was liberated?  That’s not what a War Crimes Investigation Team said in its findings in the Report of the Atrocities Committed at Dachau Concentration Camp, signed by JAGD Col. David Chavez Jr. on 7 May 1945.

The Chavez Report stated on page 56 that the wooden structure, shown against the east wall of the crematorium, was a “Wooden shed believed to contain a pump or compressor.”

 The Chavez Report, written by a US Army officer, was entered into the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal as Documents 159L and 2430-PS.

The wording of the Chavez Report indicates that no one actually went into the wooden shed, so no one saw the chutes for pouring in the Zyklon-B pellets and the peephole for the SS men to watch the victims die.

An undated addendum, which mentioned the bins, was added to the Chavez Report at a later date.

So when did someone finally see the bins and the peephole? Apparently, not for a long time.  On my website, I have a page on which I have compiled all the descriptions of the gas chamber that I could find.  Not one person who entered the Dachau gas chamber immediately after the liberation of the camp mentioned the chutes on the wall or the screened openings inside the gas chamber.

The former Dachau concentration camp is now a big tourist attraction since is is only about 10 miles from Munich.  Tourists want to have the complete Holocaust experience when they go to Dachau.   The folks at the Memorial Site don’t want to begrudge the tourists the ultimate horror of standing inside a real gas chamber, so the sign that was there when I first visited in May 1997 is now gone.

Sign that was inside Dachau gas chamber from 1965 to 2002

I took the photo of the sign in the Dachau gas chamber in May 2001, but when I returned in May 2003, the sign had been removed.

October 23, 2011

How the Nazis perfected their method of gassing the Jews

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust — Tags: , , , — furtherglory @ 10:28 am

The most important thing, as far as Hitler was concerned, was to exterminate all the Jews in Europe, more so than winning the war.  That’s why the Nazis went to a great deal of trouble to perfect their method of gassing.  I find this whole subject to be fascinating, so bear with me, dear reader.

Here is a quote from this blog about the gassing of prisoners at Dachau :

The Dachau camp was the prototype for other concentration camps.  Although they did not carry out any mass killings here, a gas chamber, masked as a shower, was built on the site.  It is believed that it was used to conducted (sic) trials, to prefect the method, so the chambers could be introduced at other death camps.

Another quote about the Dachau gas chamber is from this travel blog:

The S.S. had a gas chamber built within the new building [at Dachau], and included the now familiar fake sign indicating it was “showers.” In spite of the gas chamber’s presence, however, there are no mass murders documented here, as there were in the death camps. Some survivors, however, have said there were small groups or individuals killed in the gas chamber, presumably to test its effectiveness.

The Nazis left nothing to chance.  They started testing gassing methods even before the “Final Solution” was planned at the Wannsee Conference in January 1942.

According to my private tour guide, on my trip to Auschwitz in 1998, the Nazis conducted the first mass killing of people using Zyklon-B in prison cell number 27 in Block 11 in the main camp on Sept. 3, 1941. Adolf Eichmann was visiting the Auschwitz camp on that day, although Commandant Rudolf Höss was away on business, according to the Auschwitz Museum guidebook. Since 1939, Adolf Eichmann had been the head of Department IV, B4 in the Reich Central Security Office (RSHA); Eichmann’s department was in charge of getting rid of the Jews in Europe. Karl Fritzsch, the camp commander and the deputy of Rudolf Höss, took it upon himself to carry out this first gassing, while his superior officer, Rudolf Höss, was away that day.

Cell #27 where first gassing test was done at Auschwitz

The subjects of this first mass killing on September 3, 1941 at Auschwitz were 600 Russian POWs and 250 sick prisoners. According to my tour guide, testing done in the previous months had determined the right amount of Zyklon-B needed to kill a room full of people. In a book entitled Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, edited by Israel Gutman and Michael Berenbaum, it was stated that the murder of 600 Soviet Prisoners of War and about 250 sick prisoners took place in Block 11 between September 3rd and September 5th. The authors also quoted from a report by the prisoner underground which said that 600 Soviet prisoners and 200 Poles were gassed in Block 11 on the night of September 5th and 6th.

Block 11 at Auschwitz where gas testing was first done

Baracke X at Dachau was the location of the gas chamber

Beginning in February 1942, following the Wannsee conference, Jews in Germany and in the German-occupied countries were rounded up by the Nazis and deported to the East.  In spite of this, the decision was made in April 1942 to build a new crematorium with four ovens at Dachau. Four disinfection chambers and a homicidal gas chamber were to be included in the new building which was to be called Baracke X.

On the blueprints for Baracke X, the homicidal gas chamber was called a shower room, but each of the four disinfection chambers was called a Gaskammer, the German word for gas chamber. 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, Catholic priests, and Soviet POWs.

Tour guides at Dachau now tell visitors that the gas chamber at Dachau was not used for “mass gassing,” but it was used for testing gases and gassing methods.

It is now known that the Zyklon-B was put into pellets, the size of peas, which could not go through shower heads. Besides that, the pellets must be heated in order to release the poison gas.  The Nazis were not able to figure that out, even though they used the Dachau gas chamber for testing for two years (1943 – 1945).

Finally, long after World War II was over, the American military figured it out.  That’s why there are now two little windows on the outside wall of the Dachau gas chamber: the correct way to gas human beings is to throw the gas pellets through little windows and heat them with a heater placed on the other side of the room.

I previously blogged about the construction of the Dachau gas chamber here and here.

May 8, 2010

Dachau crematorium — “laid out with deliberate efficiency as if it was an abattoir”

Filed under: Dachau, Germany, Holocaust, World War II — Tags: , , , , — furtherglory @ 9:39 am

I learned a new word today, as I was searching wordpress blogs: abattoir.  I looked up the definition on google and learned that it means “a building where animals are butchered” or “a slaughterhouse.”  The word abattoir was used on this blog by someone who had just recently visited the Dachau Memorial Site.  Here is the full quote from the blog:

“Not many of the original barracks remain but the gas chamber and crematorium are very well preserved. Walking through the holding room, to the showers and then through to the crematorium is eerie – the place is laid out with deliberate efficiency as if it was an abattoir. It is hard to understand how one human being can treat another like cattle.”

Oooh, that’s cold! (as the woman on the Progressive insurance TV ad would say)

Brent, the guy who wrote the blog post, got the impression that the Nazis were “deceitful” because they put a sign that says “Brausebad” over the gas chamber, and a sign that says “Arbeit Macht Frei” over the entrance gate.  Brent thinks that the Nazis sold Dachau to the public as a “work and re-education camp” but after the war, the “true purpose” of Dachau became known. He got that right!  The “true purpose” of Dachau was not known until the American liberators arrived on April 29, 1945 and Albert Guérisse, a British SOE agent, escorted the soldiers to the gas chambers (plural).  It was the British BBC that first told the world about the gas chambers in June 1942, long before the Dachau gas chamber was built in 1943.

The Baracke X building where the gas chambers are located at Dachau, May 2007

The alleged homicical gas chamber at Dachau is located in Baracke X, the building shown in the photo above; it is on the far left behind the white table. The morgue where the bodies were stored is on the right, next to the gas chamber, and the next room to the right is the oven room.  You can see that the building was “laid out with deliberately efficiency” like an “abattoir.”

But what about the first photo of the Dachau gas chamber, taken by T/4 Sidney Blau, that was shown to the public a few days after Dachau was surrendered to the Americans?  The door that is shown in the photo below is located at the far end of the Baracke X building, so far away from the ovens that it cannot be shown in the same photo without using a wide angle lens.

Photo of Dachau gas chamber, April 30, 1945

The caption, which the US Army put on this photo, is as follows:

“Gas chambers (plural), conveniently located to the crematory, are examined by a soldier of the U.S. Seventh Army. These chambers were used by Nazi guards for killing prisoners of the infamous Dachau concentration camp.”

Note the word “Gaszeit” which means “Gas time,” on the door.  This shows that the Nazis weren’t deceitful at all.  The prisoners could very clearly see that this was a Gaskammer, which is the German word for a room where Zyklon-B poison gas was used.

There was no “deliberate efficiency” about the location of the Gaskammer shown in the photo above.  It was as far away as it could get from the ovens.  But there was proof of the German reputation for neatness and order; the prisoners had to take off their clothes and hang them up on hangers, as shown in the photo below, taken outside the Baracke X building.

Prisoners clothing hung up outside “die Gaskammern,” April 30, 1945

The south end of the Baracke X building at Dachau, May 2001

The photo above shows the spot where the clothing was hung up at Dachau when the American soldiers arrived on April 29, 1945.  The Americans assumed that the prisoners had been forced to hang up their clothes before going into one of the four rooms with the word “Gaszeit” on the door.

Door into Gaskammer is now bolted to another door

The photo above shows the famous door that was shown to the world as a door into a gas chamber where prisoners were gassed.  It has been bolted to another door so that visitors cannot pose in front of it.   The photo below shows a sign over the four doors into the disinfection chambers at Dachau.  In spite of this sign, some tour guides still tell visitors that the prisoners had to take off their clothes and hang them on hangers before entering these chambers to be killed with Zyklon-B.

Sign over “die Gaskammern” at Dachau, May 2003

Note the black pipe that is to the left of the sign in the photo above.  The “deliberately efficient” Nazis would put an unopened can of Zyklon-B gas pellets into this pipe and the can would automatically be opened and emptied into a wire basket; then hot air would be blown over the pellets to activate the gas. After the clothes had been disinfected, the pellets would be retrieved from the wire basket and put back into the can, to be returned to the manufacturer to be recycled.

DEGESH machine used to put poison gas into disinfection chambers

Prisoner clothing was hung on bar inside the Gaskammer

The photos above show the “deliberate efficiency” with which the Nazis disinfected the prisoner clothing at Dachau in an attempt to stop a typhus epidemic, which killed half of the prisoners who died at Dachau. The “true purpose” of Dachau was to imprison people like British SOE agent Albert Guérisse, who was an illegal combatant during World War II, helping the French Resistance which was fighting in violation of the Armistice that the French had signed.

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