Scrapbookpages Blog

April 24, 2013

Why are tourists not allowed to see what is in the basement of the gas chamber building at Dachau?

The last time that I saw the Memorial Site at the former Dachau concentration camp was in May 2007.  At that time, tourists were not allowed to see the basement of the Baracke X building where the gas chamber is located.  I have been to Dachau several times (the first time was in 1997) but the door to the basement was never open.

Stairs leading down to the basement of Baracke X at Dachau

Stairs leading down to the basement of Baracke X at Dachau

I got to thinking about this when I read a letter, written by one of the American liberators of Dachau, on this website.  This quote is an excerpt from the letter on the website:

FORMER BRUNSWICKER EDITOR DESCRIBES HORRORS OF DACHAU
Dachau, Germany
July 29, 1945

Dear Folks,
I’m going to combine this letter because I want to tell you in some detail of something I have just seen–the site of one of the world’s greatest horrors, I think. Perhaps Dachau, just the word, means something to you. Here was one of the Nazis’ most horrible concentration camps–and we are staying within its barbed-wire enclosure in the hospital building.

Across a high concrete wall, just a few yards from me now, are the buildings where many thousands of starved and diseased persons finally were put to death, by one of several devices the ingenious Germans had arranged.

The first sight one sees is the row of small concrete gas chambers. These small rooms, about six feet square–could either be used for decontaminating clothes–and bodies–or put prisoners to death. The next room, large and with a low ceiling first gives the impression of a huge shower room. There are drains in the floor and shower spigots in the ceiling–but all fakes. Prisoner were made to take off all their clothes and enter the room, believing they were to take a bath. As many as 300 persons, I suppose men and women all in one group, were crowded into this room, the door sealed, and the gas turned on. In seven or eight minutes it was all over.

[…]

In the basement of this building was a bone crusher where the remains from the furnaces were ground into small particles, either for fertilizer or to be put into small urns, resembling flower pots, on the pretense of being sent to relatives. The basement is full of these pots and bone ashes litter the floor. Even in death these poor creatures were shown no decency.

It would be interesting to see what a bone crusher looks like.  I would also like to see the the “small urns, resembling flower pots.”   Many of the America soldiers described the pots as being red colored, apparently like the red flower pots that you can buy today.  But there is something else that I would like to see in the basement of the Baracke X building:  the contraption that was used to put the gas fumes through the floor vents in the gas chamber, as described by American Army officer Col. Davids Chavez, Jr.

This quote is from the report made by Col. David Chavez, Jr. on May 7, 1945, a little more than a week after the camp was liberated on April 29, 1945:

“The new building [Baracke X] 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.” Report of the Atrocities Committed at Dachau Concentration Camp, signed by Col. David Chavez, Jr., JAGD, 7 May 1945

One of the floor grates mentioned in the Chavez report

One of the floor grates mentioned in the Chavez report

The photograph above shows one of the “grates in the floor” that were mentioned in the official US Army report, signed by Col. Chavez, which is quoted above.

There are 6 of these grates, which appear to be floor drains, but they are now closed up.  The grates are in 2 rows of three in the center of the room. The floor slopes towards the center, so that water would drain into the grates. The size of the drains is approximately 20 by 26 inches.

Top vent that was mentioned in the Chavez report

Top vent that was mentioned in the Chavez report

The photo above shows one of the top vents mentioned in the Chavez report.  This is actually a light fixture box, from which the fixture has been removed.  Other reports of the gas chamber, made by the American liberators, did not mention how the gas was vented out of the room. However, there are also two large vents in the ceiling of the Dachau gas chamber, which appear to have been added later.

Vents on the ceiling of the Dachau gas chamber

Two large square vents on the ceiling of the Dachau gas chamber

The photo above shows two large square vents on the ceiling of the Dachau gas chamber, on the left hand side of the photo. (The two vents on the outside wall of the gas chamber, in the center of the photo, are  part of a different lie, which I won’t go into now.)

The photo below shows a close-up of one of the ceiling vents. Both vents are supposedly connected to one vent pipe on the roof.

Vent on ceiling of Dachau gas chamber

Vent on ceiling of Dachau gas chamber

Photo taken shortly after Dachau was liberated shows a vent on the roof directly over the gas chamber

Photo taken shortly after Dachau was liberated shows a vent on the roof directly over the gas chamber

Photo of Dachau Baracke X building shows a vent pipe over the gas chamber

Photo of Dachau Baracke X building shows a vent pipe over the gas chamber

In the photo above, notice the two holes in the wall, behind the white object in the foreground.  This clearly indicates that there is a vent over the gas chamber, and the old black and white photo shows that the vent was there shortly after the camp was liberated.

In 1989, Fred Leuchter examined the Dachau gas chamber and was highly critical of it in his report; he wrote the following regarding the lack of proper ventilation of the room:

For the record, this alleged gas chamber would have held only forty-seven (47) persons utilizing the nine (9) square foot inclusion rule as accepted by standard engineering practice for air handling systems. Without an exhaust system or windows, it would require at least one week to vent by convection. This estimate is based on American gas chambers requiring twenty (20) minutes to vent with two complete air changes per minute, and a minimum of forty-eight (48) hours to vent a fumigated building with an abundance of windows.

It seems that Fred Leuchter, a gas chamber expert who was a consultant for the Missouri gas chamber, did not consider the pipe over the Dachau gas chamber to be an exhaust pipe, since he wrote “without an exhaust system” in his report. According to Fred Leuchter, the exhaust pipe over a gas chamber should be 40 feet high, like the one over the Missouri gas chamber, but what does he know?

You can read Leuchter’s full report on the Dachau gas chamber on my website here.

The Dachau gas chambers (plural) were mentioned in the film of Dachau, that was made by Hollywood director George Stevens on May 3, 1945. This film was shown at the Nuremberg IMT on November 29, 1945. The gas chamber footage starts at 4:02 in the video. You can see the “top vents” mentioned by Chavez at 4:14 in the YouTube video.