Van Pelt vs Rudolf on Gas-tight doors & Dummy Shower Heads

Peter Myers, February 9, 2009; update April 30, 2009.

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Van Pelt vs Rudolf on Gas-tight doors & Dummy Shower Heads

The best Denier/Revisionist book is probably Dissecting the Holocaust, edited by Germar Rudolf. But it needs to be read in conjunction with van Pelt's replies.

Krema I:

Ruins of Krema II:

Ruins of Krema III:

Ruins of Krema IV:

Ruins of Krema V:

Ruins of Bunker 2:

Ash Ponds Krema IV, III, II:

(1) Gas Tight Doors (2) Dummy Shower Heads (3) Preheating the Morgue (4) "Holes in the roof of morgue 1 at crematorium 2 have been found" (5) Areial Photos of 4 holes in the roofs of Kremas II & III (6) Zyklon Introduction Columns - 4 patches visible in US airforce photo Krema II 1944

(1) Gas Tight Doors

Re: N. Gas Tight Doors (283-305)

Professor Robert Jan Van Pelt {Report to the Irving/Lipstadt APPEAL Trial}

First of all it seems that Rudolf wants to have it both ways. He accepts that felt was used as a gasket material on wooden doors that served the Zyklon B delousing chambers of Canada 1 when he writes, on p. 295, that "felt was used as gasket material, as shown by some photos as well as by documents." And he rightly points to a document dated February 24, 1943 (reproduced in Pressac) calculating the material necessary to produce 12 gastight doors measuring 30 by 40 cm for crematoria 4 and 5. At the bottom of the calculation is a hand-written note on materials to be used that adds "Filz" (felt). In fact, some of that felt can still be seen on the three doors that survived. 87 Thus Rudolf acknowledges that felt was used as a gas-tight seal. But then, a couple of pages later, he states categorically in his "Assessment of the Auschwitz Doors" that "felt is not gas-tight." This may be so, or not, but if felt was not gas-tight, the people in Auschwitz were unaware of this, because they used, as Rudolf demonstrated before, felt as a gas-tight seal. I presume this is the meaning of the adverb "truly" when he writes the following on p. 293:

The fact is that to this date nobody has offered any documentary or material evidence for the alleged existence of execution gas chambers. The question is therefore whether there really was even one single truly gas-tight door in Auschwitz that could have fulfilled the necessary criteria for a gas-tight mass execution door.

I note in passing that the rhetoric used here, the emphasis on the "one single ..." echoes that of Faurisson, when he asked for "one single proof ..." or the more recent call for "one single hole ..." So the conclusion seems to be: yes, there were many gas-tight doors in Auschwitz, but not a single "truly" gas-tight door, because the gas-tight doors in Auschwitz all used felt as a sealer, and this is not "truly" gas-tight. But it seems that in Auschwitz the gas-tight doors sealed with felt did do a good enough job anyway. Of course, the doors discussed are for delousing rooms. But since the concentration of hydrogen cyanide used in Zyklon B delousing chambers was in all probability higher, and certainly not lower, than the concentration used in homicidal gas chambers, it follows that if the felt seals were good enough for the delousing rooms, they were good enough for the homicidal gas chambers.

An important thing to remember is that the homicidal gassings in Auschwitz began in a very improvised way, like most things in Auschwitz happened in a very improvised way. For example, if we look at delousing sheds BW5a and BW5b, which were designed in 1941, constructed in 1942 and remained in operation until the end of the war, it is remarkable to realize how simple these structures are, and how far the construction of the delousing gas chambers is from the technological refinement from the Degesch Kreislauf-Entlausungsgaskammer (circulation-delousing gas chamber) or other designs produced before and during the war. However, BW5a and BW5b were sophisticated buildings compared to Bunkers 1 and 2. These homicidal gas chambers, in which up to a quarter of a million people were killed in 1942 and early 1943, were cheap conversions of existing farm houses. They were not built using industrial standards for safety, and they did not use gas-tight doors produced according to industrial standards. When in August 1942 the Central Construction Office set out to design crematoria 4 and 5 as killing installations, the architects initially designed a building without including gas chambers, as the assumption was that these crematoria would be built adjacent to bunkers 1 and 2, the so-called "bathhouses for special actions." The gas chambers of bunkers 1 and 2, primitive as they were, functioned well enough, and there was no need to improve on them. Only later that year - in any case after September 22, 1942 88 - the decision seems to have been taken to move crematoria 4 and 5 away from the bunkers and into the camp area proper. This led to a need to build gas chambers adjacent to the crematoria. The experience with the bunkers was such that the architects of the Central Construction Office decided to largely replicate these buildings as annexes of the new crematoria. There was obviously no desire to go for a more fancy solution.

This brings me then to some evidence that, in the opinion of Rudolf, can "hardly be surpassed" (p. 301): the various offers of Berninghaus to sell to the Auschwitz SS gas-tight doors (pp. 299-301). The case he tries to make is that the architects in the Central Construction Office knew what "real" gas-tight doors were like because Berninghaus had offered such doors in July 9, 1942 for a massive inmate registration, delousing and bath building under construction in the main camp. He writes (p. 299):

Where the buildings in Auschwitz are concerned, this tender for gas-tight doors is highly significant in terms of its timing, since it had already been obtained before any of the crematoria at Birkenau were built. If, as is alleged, "execution gas chambers" had been planned for these crematoria, then such doors would also have been ordered early on, but this was not done. On the other hand, such doors manufactured by the same firm were verifiably installed in the concentration camp at Buchenwald, but no serious historian suggests today that there were any execution "gas chambers" at Buchenwald.

First of all there is a serious misrepresentation of the facts here: no serious student of crematoria 2 and 3 asserts today that these buildings were originally planned with what Rudolf calls "execution gas chambers." Pressac first proposed, and I fully agree with him, that the decision to transform morgue 1 of crematoria 2 and 3 into gas chambers was taken in the fall of 1942, when both buildings were under construction. The transformation of morgue 1 of crematoria 2 and 3 into a gas chamber took place with a minimum of fuss. We have records that show that the gas-tight doors were ordered, not from an outside supplier, but from the DAW (Deutsche Ausrüstungswerke, or German Armament Works), an SS controlled factory adjacent to the camp grounds. There was no tender, not only because it concerned a secret job, but also because there was no budget, nor the rationing allocation to buy steel doors. It is important in this context to know that the inmate registration, delousing and bath building known as BW 160, which was to meant to receive the steel gas-tight doors, was approved, designed and constructed as part of an expansion plan of the main camp (Auschwitz I) to be made possible with the help of IG Farben, which was to provide finances and the allocation of rationed materials. In the end, IG Farben never delivered the goods, and as a result most of the planned expansion of the main camp did not happen, and BW 160, the only major building of that expansion that had been begun, was never completed during the war. In other words, BW 160 was a building where, at its beginning, things seemed feasible that went much beyond what was possible elsewhere in the camp.

In his affidavit Rudolf systematically distorts or ignores the historical context in which things occurred. Of course: the architects of the Central Construction Office knew, when, in the fall of 1942, they decided to transform morgue 1 into a gas chamber, that state-of-the-art gas-tight doors were in principle available. But they had not yet been able to get these for BW 160, and they were certainly not going to get them relatively quickly for the crematoria, as there was no administrative mechanism to get them. And given the fact that the wooden doors had worked well enough at the Bunkers 1 and 2, and at the delousing sheds of Birkenau and Canada 1, there was really no reason to look further. If the Berninghaus steel doors had been available in the Central Construction Office Bauhof (building material yard) at the time that the redesign of the basement of crematoria 2 and 3 were under discussion, I can well imagine that they might have considered the possibility of using one in crematorium 2 and one in crematorium 3. But the doors were not there, and so they had no choice but to use their experience with Bunkers 1 and 2 and the existing delousing facilities in Birkenau, and order similar, wooden, felt-sealed gas-tight doors from the DAW.

As Rudolf's argument continues on pp. 303ff., the statement that there were no "truly gas-tight doors in Auschwitz is expanded into one that claims that "the 'infamous' gas-tight doors of Auschwitz were, in fact, not gas-tight." He offers, however, no other evidence than the fact that steel gas-tight doors with rubber seals, and hung on free axes were probably more gas-tight than the wooden gas-tight doors built in the DAW factory, and the negative evidence that these steel doors were not ordered.

As the correspondence from the firms Berninghaus proves, the Central Building Administration in Auschwitz of Auschwitz would have been able at any time to obtain solid, gas-tight doors, such as were manufactured by the hundred of thousand for Germany's air-raid shelters. The fact that this was not done can only be because they simply were not really needed in Auschwitz. (p. 304)

Rudolf seems to think that, in late 1942, the SS inhabited a world with a German version of the DIY Superstore, with its cash and carry and no-questions-asked policy, in every major town. In fact, an official building stop made it exceedingly difficult to obtain any building material, also for the SS, which did not share the special priority enjoyed by the army, navy and air-force.

Rudolf's claim (p. 298) that the doors of the gas chambers were insufficiently strong to "withstand a pressure of several tons produced by several hundred panicking people pressing against it" does not bear examination. It is true that the gas chamber was crowded, but the question is how the "several hundred panicking people" would have been able to bring pressure to bear on the door. If there was panic, most of the resulting "pressure" would have been born by other people, who would have been crushed, and by the walls, which would have stood. In the end, the only pressure that could be applied to the door would be that of a couple of people closest to it - people who themselves would have been more likely than not crushed by the others. Instead of a pressure of "several tons," there would have been very little pressure. The doors did not need to be particularly strong. It is important to note here that while the original proposal by Dejaco to transform morgue 1 into a homicidal gas chamber, drawn in December 1942, envisioned the construction of an outward-opening double door of 200 cm width, Bischoff's letter of March 31, 1943, mentioned by Rudolf on p. 304 of his affidavit, shows that this double door had been replaced by a smaller single-panel door of 100 cm width - with the remaining 100 cm of the original opening most likely having been filled with bricks, or perhaps by a more permanent, unmovable and strongly anchored panel (this part of both crematoria 2 and 3 is so much ruined that it is impossible to say how the remaining 100 cm was actually filled up). This arrangement was, of course, much stronger, and offered also a better seal.

It is in this context important to address the suggestion made by Rudolf on p. 305.

The change of the door from morgue 1 from opening inwards to opening outwards might as well have a very simple and innocent explanation: Due to capacity restrictions of crematoria, they are normally equipped with morgues for storing corpses of victims of infectious diseases. Spotted fever claimed many lives at the Birkenau camp, and since morgue 1 was the only morgue equipped with both an air-intake and exhaust, it is most likely that the victims of this epidemic were temporarily stored there. Intelligent ventilation design causes a slight under-pressure in such morgues to prevent the nauseous gases developed by stored corpses from entering the rest of the building. Under such circumstances any double door would have to open outwards in order to stay closed.(p. 305)

While this may be true of a door which has no locking mechanism, the gas doors in question had two heavy iron or steel latches which ensured that the door could not open from the inside. In any case, even if this had been the reason why the doors opened outwards, the question is why this design feature was only introduced in December 1942 (there had been a serious typhus epidemic in the camp in August 1942)? Was it an afterthought? Did the architects of the Central Construction Office simply forget throughout the twelve months of design development that preceded Dejaco's modification of the basement arrangement that the under-pressure would cause a problem for the inwards opening doors? If the doors had opened outwards from the beginning of the design development, Rudolf might have a point. But it concerned a modification that occurred very late in the design development, as the building was already under construction. This makes all the difference.

Finally, in this section of his report, as in others, Rudolf neither presents any positive evidence to support his argument nor makes any attempt to reconcile it with the evidence as a whole. If Rudolf is sincere in proposing that the redesign of Leichenkeller 1 to include a ventilation system to simultaneously introduce fresh air and extract foul air and a gas tight door which opened outwards was intended merely to cater for the storage of corpses who had died of typhus, one may ask why he does not address any of the following questions:

a) why should the gas-tight door require a peep hole of double 8 mm glass with a metal grill on the inside?

b) why was morgue 2, the "undressing room," which was about 40% larger than morgue 1, not supplied with a gastight door and a similar ventilation system in preference or in addition to morgue 1?

c) why was the room equipped with 14 showers (a feasible alternative use if the room was to be used as a gas chamber; not so if it was to be used for the storage of the corpses of typhus victims)?

d) why should the redesign involve removal of the adjacent corpse-slide, the transfer of the basement staircase to the other side of the building, and a change in the direction in which the doors of the morgue opened from inwards to outwards, all of which would significantly hamper the introduction of corpses?

e) why should the room be provided with four wire-mesh introduction devices with wooden covers?

And then, of course, there is this one issue that ought to have given Rudolf some concern: when he set out to "research" Auschwitz, he observed that the walls of the delousing chambers of BW5a and BW5b were covered with blue stains. If, indeed, the gas-tight door of morgue 1 had been installed to allow that room to become a Zyklon B delousing room, why did he not find any blue stains on the remaining walls of that space? Or was it a delousing room that was never used?

To tie up one loose end.

Rudolf's attempt to discredit both Pressac and myself wherever possible, twisting the facts if necessary. On p. 302 he offers a typical example:

In his report, Prof. Can [sic] Pelt heavily relies in Pressac's work. However, Pressac's claims regarding gas-tight doors are flawed. E.g. on p. 429 Pressac writes:

"Proposition A: A gas-tight door can be intended only for a gas chamber."

This is a thoughtless and untenable claim. His further conclusions can only be correct if this statement is correct. ...

Let us look at page 429, and quote the offending "Proposition A" in its proper context. It occurs in an exercise in logic that seeks to explain the way indirect proofs work.

In the final analysis, there remains only the various items of correspondence and official documents of German origin. Through the "slips" that can be found in them, they form a convincing body of presumptive evidence and clearly indicate the presence in four Birkenau Krematories (II, III, IV and V) of gas chambers using a prussic acid disinfestation agent sold under the name of "Zyclon-B." ... .

In the absence of any "direct", i.e. palpable, indisputable and evident proof (lacking so far as we know at present) such as a photograph of people killed by a toxic gas in an enclosed space that can be perfectly located and identified, or of a label on a Krematorium drawing of a "Gaskammer um Juden zu vergiften ' gas chamber for poisoning Jews" an "indirect" proof may suffice and be valid. By "indirect" proof, I mean a German document that does not state in black and white that a gas chamber is for HOMICIDAL purposes, but one containing evidence that logically it is impossible for it to be anything else.

The first document [Document a] presented here is an inventory of equipment installed in Krematorium III and formed part of the file of documents compiled for the official handover of the new building to the camp administration. ...

This inventory indicates that the equipment installed for "Leichenkeller I/Corpse cellar [morgue] 1" included:

"1 gasdichte Tür/1 gas-tight door" AND

"14 Brausen/14 showers".

Two items that are strictly INCOMPATIBLE with one another. This incompatibility constitutes the fundamental proof, for it is clear that:

Proposition A: A gas-tight door can be intended only for a gaschamber

Question A: Why does a gas chamber have showers in it?

Reply A: Incomprehensible. Proposition A must be formulated differently for a logical reply.

Proposition B: A room fitted with showers is a place where people wash themselves

Question B: Why does the only entrance to the shower room have a gas-tight door?

Reply B: Incomprehensible. Proposition B must be formulated differently for a logical reply.

Etc. etc.

In other words, Pressac's "Proposition A" is part of an exercise in logic to show how a historian can use a dialectical method to interrogate the evidence. It is not a final, categorical statement about gas-tight doors. This is made clear when he writes "Reply A: Incomprehensible. Proposition A must be formulated differently for a logical reply." Last modified:May 23, 2002 Technical/administrative contact: ==

(2) Dummy Shower Heads

Re: C. Dummy Shower Heads (18-27)

Professor Robert Jan Van Pelt {Report to the Irving/Lipstadt APPEAL Trial}

Mr. Justice Gray included in his Judgment a reference to the eyewitness evidence of Yehuda Bacon.

7.51 Another was Yehuda Bacon, an Israeli artist, who at Auschwitz had been employed to take papers to the crematoria for burning. Consequently he had entered the crematoria and had seen the gas chamber. In the summer of 1945 he drew illustrations of Auschwitz which he produced in the course of his evidence. The drawings depicted the inside of gas chambers, including the dummy shower heads and the mesh columns used to insert the Zyklon-B into the gas chamber. He also described how the gas chambers were ventilated after the gassings. Bacon's evidence included a description of how the corpses were put on to a lift which raised them up to the incinerators. Van Pelt relied on the evidence of Bacon that, when it was cold the head of the Sonderkommando would let them warm up in the gas chambers and undressing rooms when they were not in use. He argues that this evidence refute Leuchter's contention that the temperature in the gas chambers was so low that there would have been condensed liquid hydrogen cyanide on the walls had it been used.

Ignoring the point of central importance in Bacon's description of the gas chamber - the wire mesh columns used to introduce Zyklon B into the gas chamber and the ventilation system used to extract the hydrogen cyanide after the gassing - Rudolf focussed on the (compared to the gas columns and ventilation system) relatively unimportant fake showers created to hoodwink the victims to introduce an argument that seeks to establish that the showers in morgue 1 of crematoria 2 and 3 were not dummies, but real. His aim, of course, is to show that the presence of real showers would indicate that the morgues had not been transformed into gas chambers.

Rudolf bases his argument on an unexecuted project, developed and abandoned in May 1943, to use the heat generated in the waste incinerator of crematorium 3, which was under construction at that time, to heat water that could be used for showers to be located in the "undressing room" of Crematorium 3. In order to understand this project, it is important to establish the historical context. Both in my book Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present (1996), and in the expert report I submitted for the original trial, I stressed that Auschwitz had a tangled, complex and confused history shaped by often contingent circumstances and evolving ambitions. I distinguished ten different and seemingly contrary functions during the almost 57 months of the camp's existence. Each of these functions has their own political, institutional and financial context. They often were at cross-purposes, at times parallel without interfering with one another, and at times these functions converged.

A function that became important in the Spring of 1943, just at the time that the four crematoria came into operation, was the use of the camp as a forced labour pool for various German factories built in the surrounding region. After the massive military losses in the summer of 1943, the German army had begun to draft every last German male and the armament industry pressed every available "free" person into its factories. Slaves were needed for other industrial work as well as in the coal mines, and the SS negotiated with numerous businesses to create and maintain in the Auschwitz area a system of 27 satellite camps located on industrial sites. In return for the forced labour of the inmates, the SS received an income which generated a profit of around two million RM per month.

Marginally interested in preserving their inmate investment, Birkenau was to become a service station for the outlying posts which were too small to maintain hospitals. One camp section under construction, BA III, was to host two quarantine camps, and two hospital camps. Thus in the Spring of 1943 the issue of hygiene had become important because the inmates who were considered fit for work had acquired a monetary value. This led to the construction of a new delousing/shower building that was to be known as the Central Sauna. The problem was that in the Spring of 1943 the need to improve the hygienic situation in Birkenau was urgent, while the Sauna was only to be completed in eight months time. The proposal to adapt one space in crematorium 3, the undressing room, for that purpose offered a quick temporary solution to the problem.

The proposal made sense, as it appeared in May 1943 that Auschwitz was about to be equipped with an overcapacity in killing installations. In our book, Dwork and I commented on this as follows:

The four new crematoria came into operation after the Holocaust itself had peaked. The Judeocide had begun in 1941, and the Germans killed some 1.1 million Jews that year. In 1942 they murdered another 2.7 million Jews, of whom approximately 200,000 died in Auschwitz. The year the crematoria of Auschwitz came into operation the number of victims dropped to 500,000, half of whom were killed in Auschwitz. All the Jews whom the Germans had been able to catch easily had been trapped. By the end of 1943 the Germans closed down the death camps built specifically to exterminate Jews: Kulmhof (150,000 Jews), Sobibor (200,000 Jews), Belzec (550,000 Jews), and Treblinka (750,000 Jews).

A more detailed analysis of deportations to Auschwitz shows that, indeed, the crematoria, planned and ordered shortly after the policy to kill all Jews had expanded to include all of Europe's Jews, only had become available when the number of transports arriving in Auschwitz began to dwindle. According to table D in Franciszek Piper's classic study Die Zahl der Opfer von Auschwitz (1993), the transports had gone down from a high of over 57,000 in January 1943 to 28,000 in April to a little over 16,000 in May. By the end of the year the average number of monthly arrivals was around 10,000, and in early 1944 it dropped even below that.

In the Spring of 1943 there was not only a significant downturn in the number of Jewish deportees arriving in Auschwitz, but also the mortality of registered prisoners in Auschwitz decreased dramatically. We have no figures for May. But in a letter to Himmler written on September 30, 1943, Oswald Pohl reported that in July 1943 the mortality in the men's camp in Auschwitz had reached a little under 3% (or 1,442 men) and in the women's camp a little over 5% (or 938 women). 16 The average mortality rate in Auschwitz was 3.7%. With that the mortality rate in Auschwitz was some 60% higher than the average mortality in the concentration camp system, which was 2.23 that month. While we can only speculate as to the proportion of the mortality in Auschwitz to that of the concentration camp system as a whole in May, we may for the sake of argument assume that it would have had more or less the same ratio. In May the mortality in the concentration camp system as a whole was 2.8%, thus it is possible that the Auschwitz figure would have been around 4.2%. In May 1943 the total inmate population of Auschwitz was 50,000. Hence it is likely that the monthly mortality was between 2,000 and 2,500. If we add to this figure some 12,000 Jews who would have been killed on arrival (75% of the 16,000 deportees), the total need for incineration capacity that month would have been around 15,000.

In May 1943 three crematoria were operational in Birkenau: 2, 4 and 5. According to a German document they had a total incineration capacity of (1,440 + 768 + 768 = ) 2,976 corpses per day, or close to 90,000 corpses per month - that is six times the capacity actually needed to take care of the corpses of those who had died a "natural" death and those who had been murdered. Thus in May 1943 it appeared that crematorium 3, under construction at that moment, was to have little use, as the completed crematoria 2, 4 and 5 had more than enough capacity for whatever Jews could be expected.

An added factor is that in May 1943 it also had become clear that the Hungarians were not going to hand the Germans their more than 800,000 Jews. In April, during their meeting in Klessheim Castle, Horthy had refused Hitler's request to deport Hungary's Jews. A popular contemporary summary of that interview held that Horthy told Hitler, "They may be lousy Jews, but they are our lousy Jews." 17 As Goebbels' diary entry of May 8, 1943 reveals, the Germans realised they were not going to succeed. "Horthy himself . . . will continue to resist every effort to tackle the Jewish problem aggressively." 18 With little prospect to receive Hungarian transports, the massive overcapacity of crematoria had become almost an embarrassment, and hence it made absolute sense to find some alternative purpose for crematorium 3, which was to be completed a month later.

There is no evidence that the proposal to use the heat generated by the waste incinerator to warm water for 100 showers in the undressing room of crematorium 3 was ever realized. And, with the exception of a drawing that Topf sent on June 5 in response of a request made on May 14, there is no trace of the proposal which was initiated on May 12 after May 16. As Rudolf observes (p. 23), Bischoff writes in June 1943 the project had been dropped. In response to a question "are the exhaust gasses utilized?" on a questionnaire concerning the crematoria, Bischoff responded: "planned but not carried out."

Indeed, in June the Central Construction Office would have had second thoughts about giving crematorium 3 another purpose: on May 18 crematorium 4 was taken out of commission for repairs, and four days later, on May 22, crematorium 2 was shut down also. Obviously crematorium 3 was to be needed as a killing installation.

When crematorium 3 was completed and transferred to the camp on June 24, 1943, an inventory that was added as an appendix to the official transfer document notes, however, that morgue 1 of that building contained 14 showers. The question, now, is whether and if so how these 14 showers relate to the abandoned project to install 100 showers in morgue 2 - the undressing room. Can they be explained by reference to the plan of middle May? And if so, does their presence mean that morgue 1 of crematorium 3 was not used as a gas chamber?

Let us first look at the inventory of crematorium 3 in greater detail. The first thing that must be noted is that it is not a complete inventory: we know through comparison with other transfer documents (such as the transfer document of crematorium 2 of March 31, 1943) that the main document contained the major inventory, and the appendix only subsidiary items. The problem is that the page that mentions the major items did not survive. But the page that does survive gives nevertheless some important clues as to the use of morgue 1. It records that this room was equipped with a gasdichte tür, a gas-tight door. From a letter dated March 31, 1943, and signed by the Chief Architect of Auschwitz, Karl Bischoff, we know that this gas-tight door was similar to the gas-tight door of crematorium 2, that is a door "with a spy-hole made of double 8mm glass with a rubber seal and metal fitting." Bischoff stressed in his letter of March 31 that his order for that door was "very urgent." 19 Why would a shower room urgently need a gas-tight door, with a spy-hole of double 8 mm glass with a rubber seal and a metal fitting?

Let us now try to reconstruct the sequence of events that connects the letter of March 31 to the inventory of June 24. It seems that in March 1943 the Auschwitz SS tried to complete crematorium 3 with a sense of urgency as, at that time, there was still a belief that in the near future the more than 800,000 Hungarian Jews would be deported to Auschwitz - as many of them were, in the end, in the Spring and Summer of 1944. At that time, the Auschwitz SS intended crematorium 3 to be equipped, like its just completed twin crematorium 2, with an undressing room and a gas chamber equipped with a gas-tight door with a spy-hole. Then, in April 1943, Hitler was unable to convince Horthy to surrender the Hungarian Jews, and transports to Auschwitz began to decrease, while crematoria 4 and 5 were brought into operation, creating a massive killing and incineration capacity. At the same time Birkenau was assigned a new function to service the new satellite camps, and serious measures were contemplated to improve hygienic conditions so that the camp could fulfill its contractual obligations to the various civilian companies that were to use the labour of the inmates. Realizing that there was no need for crematorium 3 to serve as a killing station - crematoria 2, 4 and 5 had more than sufficient capacity at that time - it appears that the Auschwitz SS contemplated to use the basement of the not-yet completed crematorium 3 as a shower facility for the inmates. The Central Construction Office decided to install in the now obsolete undressing room 100 showers, to be supplied with hot water generated by the waste incinerator, and probably an unknown number of showers in the other basement room, which had been intended as a gas chamber, and which was therefore supplied with a gas-tight door. These showers were probably cold-water showers, not to use the water heated by the waste incinerator. The reason that the spaces originally designed as basement morgues and later planned to be an undressing room and a gas chamber invited such a transformation was the presence of six drains in the floor of the undressing room and four drains in the floor of the gas chamber.

Then, as May progressed, crematoria 2 and 4 broke down, and it became clear that crematorium 3 would be needed as a killing installation after all. The project to install the 100 hot-water showers in the undressing room was therefore abandoned, but it is possible that the gas chamber had already been equipped with 14 of the unknown number of cold-water showers, and as these could be useful in serving the needs of the Sonderkommandos living in the building, they were left in place, and therefore duly recorded when, in late June 1943, the crematorium was transferred to the camp. To complete the arrangement in the gas chamber, the 14 real showers were complemented with an unknown number of fake showers, not listed in the inventory, but mentioned in various testimonies given by eyewitnesses.

This narrative attempt to correlate a few important pieces of evidence - such as the letter of March 31, the meeting between Hitler and Horthy in Klessheim, the documents concerning the installation of hot-water showers in mid May, the break-down of crematoria 2 and 4 later that same month, Bischoff's answers to the questions asked in the questionnaire in June, and the partial inventory attached to the transfer document of June 24 - may be a reasonable depiction of what actually occurred and, given the fragmentary state of the evidence, probably important facts are left out. But whatever it may or may not be, it shows that the presence of 14 showers in the inventory attached to the transfer document of does not mean that the room in which they were installed was not a gas chamber. It only suggests that the road to the completion of crematorium 3 as a killing installation was a twisted path.

In his attempt to use Bischoff's proposal to install 100 hot-water showers in the "undressing room" of crematorium 3 as evidence that this crematorium was not a killing installation, Rudolf did face the problem how to explain why this building would have been equipped with an "undressing room" to start with. Rudolf tries to answer that question by postulating that the decision to put those showers in this "undressing room" shows that the word "undressing room" is used "in the ordinary mortuary sense, and not in any special sense." This statement, which is a mere assertion without any explanation, does not make any sense whatsoever. I do not understand "the ordinary mortuary sense" of making a very large space into an "undressing room," and then filling it with showers. Does Rudolf suggest that it was customary in Germany to shower dead bodies en masse? Or does he have something else in mind? What is clear, however, is that Rudolf has not provided any evidence that showers and undressing rooms were common features in German morgues.

Which leaves, then, the question of the gas-tight door. If, indeed, the presence of an undressing room and showers show that the basement of crematorium 3 was used in "the ordinary mortuary sense," what would be the "ordinary mortuary sense" of the gas-tight door mentioned in that same inventory that listed the 14 showers? After giving so much attention to one item of the inventory - the 14 showers - he completely ignores that other item - the gas-tight door. Last modified:May 23, 2002 Technical/administrative contact: ==

(3) Preheating the Morgue

Re: E. Preheating the Morgue (30-31)

Professor Robert Jan Van Pelt {Report to the Irving/Lipstadt APPEAL Trial}

In this section Rudolf refers to paragraph 7.68 of Mr. Justice Gray's Judgment. In his quotation of this paragraph, he does not include the first sentences, which I will print here.

7.68 The Defendants rely on a letter dated 29 January 1943 from Bischoff, Chief of Central Construction Management at the camp, to SS Brigadeführer Kammler in which there is reference to a Vergasungskammer [in fact, Vergasungskeller] (gas chamber or cellar). There are also documents from February 1943 referring to the provision of gastight doors and windows. In a letter dated 31 March 1943 Bischoff presses for the delivery of a gastight door with a spyhole of 8mm glass, with a rubber seal and metal fitting. There is a timesheet of a construction worker which makes reference to fitting gastight windows to crematorium 4. Van Pelt pointed to a letter dated 6 March 1943 from Auschwitz to the Topf company which contemplated the use of hot air from the ventilators for the incinerators to pre-heat the Leichenkeller 1. Why, he asked, heat a morgue, which should be kept cool. Answering his own question, he claimed that Zyklon-B evaporates more quickly in high temperatures, so the killing process would be speeded up. (Irving answered that there is nothing sinister about heating the morgue: it was a requirement of good building practice in relation to civilian morgues).

Rudolf repeats here the argument that "according to contemporary expert literature morgues indeed did and do have a heating system to avoid frost in winter time," and that therefore the letter of March 6, 1943 does not have any sinister connotation.

It is true that Neufert's Bauentwurfslehre states that morgues should be kept at a temperature between 2 and 12 degrees Celsius to prevent the freezing of corpses. Yet there are a number of curious elements in the letter of March 6 that suggest that the pre-heating issue did not concern the attempt to keep corpses from freezing. First of all, the letter dates from March 6, 1943, that is it was written shortly before the completion of the building. At no point during the whole planning process, which had lasted more than a year by then, was the issue ever raised to (pre-) heat morgue 1, and if it were, as Rudolf suggests, simply a standard feature one wonders why the Central Construction Office did not consider the matter before.

Furthermore the letter, which is addressed to Topf and Son and which refers to a letter Topf had sent to the Central Construction Office on February 22, makes clear that the initiative to preheat the morgue was not taken by the architects, but by the firm that was hired to provide the incinerators and the ventilators.

In accordance with your suggestion, the service agrees that cellar 1 should be preheated with the air coming from the rooms of the three forced draught installations. The supply and installation of the ductwork and blowers necessary to this end are to be effected as soon as possible. As you point out in your above-mentioned letter, execution should commence this week. . . .

If the (very belated) installation of a system to pre-heat morgue 1 had been simply to follow Neufert's guidelines, one would have expected the architects to have taken the initiative, and not Topf. In February 1943 Topf was very much involved with completing morgue 1 as a gas chamber. A workman of the firm worked throughout the month of February to install the ventilation system in morgue 1. On February 26 the firm was ordered to find 10 gas detectors to measure cyanide levels.

Another element of the letter which is interesting is that it ordered that "the supply and installation of the ductwork and blowers necessary to this end are to be effected as soon as possible." The question is why this was suddenly so urgent? The fact that the first experimental gassing in morgue 1 occurred exactly one week after the letter was written, on Saturday March 13, offers a simple explanation.

And then there is what is perhaps the most curious element: the letter does not talk about heating the cellar, but about pre-heating - vorw&aumlrmen - the cellar The verb "to pre-heat" suggests that an event will follow: to pre-heat an oven for baking, to pre-heat a room for a gathering, and so on. If Rudolf would be right that morgues needed to be kept at a certain temperature, then one would have expected not merely that the issue would have been addressed from the beginning of the design process, but also that one would have used the verb "to heat," as the process of heating the morgue would be continuous.

In the case of a Zyklon B gas chamber it is useful, but not necessary, to pre-heat the room as it facilitates a more rapid degassing of the hydrogen cyanide from the pellets. In 1942 R. Irmscher of the German Society of Pest Control discussed in an article entitled "The Efficiency of Prussic Acid at Low Temperatures" ("Die Einsatzf&aumlhigkeit der Blaus&aumlure bei tiefen Temperaturen") the efficiency of Zyklon B at various temperatures. At a temperature of -18 degrees Celsius, one hour allowed 32.5% of hydrogen cyanide to evaporate from Zyklon; at 0 degrees Celsius, an hour sufficed to release 62% of the hydrogen cyanide, and at 15 degrees Celsius, an hour allowed 77% of the hydrogen cyanide to become gas.

The attempt to preheat the gas chamber by using the heat generated by the three forced draught installations came to naught because those very installations failed shortly after they were brought into operation. On March 25 the project was abandoned. 23 Yet it seems probable that the Central Construction Office did not give up on its attempts to find a means to pre-heat the morgue. A document of April 13, 1943 from Topf mentions an order for two disinfestation heaters for crematorium 2, to which was to be added an order for a warm air induction device. John Zimmerman interpreted this order as a second attempt by the Auschwitz architects to find an alternative means to pre-heat morgue 1. 24 His suggestion makes sense. The disinfestation heaters were never delivered to crematorium 2, but the warm air induction device was installed in June 1943. 25 While this bill does not make clear to what source of heat this device was connected, and into what space this device was to bring the hot air, it is likely that the source of heat was related to the incineration installation, and that the space was the room indicated in the plans as morgue 1, a room used as gas chamber.

Rudolf moves on in the next sections of his affidavit to other subjects, leaving things in the air without pushing his observations beyond some obscure points of criticism, and making no attempt to come to some genuine historical understanding of the history of the crematoria. To bring the argument back to the facts and the totality of the evidence of those facts, it is useful to summarize, once again, the main points concerning the gas chambers of crematoria 2 and 3 which I described in my Auschwitz: 1270 to the Present, which I argued in my expert report, and which I presented in court.

First of all the gas chambers of crematoria 2 and 3 were created through a process of adaptive re-use of the smaller of the two underground morgues of each of these buildings. Originally, the Auschwitz SS only planned one crematorium, to be built in the main camp. First conceived in late 1941, a set of drawings was developed in January 1942. In the end of February 1942 the decision was taken to build this crematorium not in the main camp, but in Birkenau. The design for this crematorium was by and large identical to that of crematorium 2, to be completed in March 1943. In its original design, its basement contained three morgues, or Leichenkeller - one of which, morgue 3, was redesignated quite early as a workroom to remove and store gold teeth. Unlike Leichenkeller 2, morgue 1 was designed from the very beginning to have a ventilation system built into the walls. It seems that morgue 1 was meant to store corpses in a greater state of decomposition. In the summer of 1942 the Auschwitz SS took the decision to build not merely one crematorium in Birkenau, but four: the original crematorium design developed from October 1941 onwards was to be built as crematorium 2, and the same design, but in its mirror image form, was to be used for crematorium 3. Crematoria 4 and 5 were to be built according a new and more simple design. As I argued in my expert report (pp. 367), with these four crematoria the anticipated incineration capacity of Birkenau (1,440 corpses per day for crematoria 2 and 3 each, and 768 corpses per day for crematoria 4 and 4 each, or 4,416 corpses per day for Birkenau as a whole) far exceeded the "normal" mortality of a concentration camp. These numbers suggest that all these crematoria were to be part of a program of genocide involving victims to be brought from outside the camp to Birkenau to be killed and incinerated there.

There is documentary evidence that the basements of crematoria 2 and 3 lost their original purpose of storing corpses in two morgues between August 1942 and March 1943, when crematorium 2 was completed, or June of that year, when crematorium 3 came into operation. First of all, a memorandum from November 27, 1942 signed by architect Fritz Ertl refers to the cellars of crematoria 2 and 3 as Sonderkeller, or Special Cellars. It is a designation that I have never seen in reference to morgues. Then there is a blueprint drawn in December 1942 which shows the intention not to build the corpse slide that allowed for easy transport of corpses from the ground level to the basement morgues. This plan introduced a new staircase - one that was ultimately built. This staircase was awkward as a means to bring corpses into the basement, but convenient for people to descend. That same plan also shows that morgue 1, which in earlier plans was meant to have doors that were to open inwards, was now to receive doors that were to open outwards. The doors to morgue 2 remained unchanged: they were to remain opening inwards.

Another piece of evidence that suggests that the basement is to serve an unusual function is a letter of the SS garrison doctor from January 1943 in which he asks the architects to provide for "an undressing room in the cellar spaces." In a letter dated January 29, 1943, the chief architect of Auschwitz, Karl Bischoff, refers to one of the basement spaces of crematorium 2 as a Leichenkeller, but he labels the second space as a Vergasungskeller, or gassing cellar. In a letter dated February 11, 1943, Bischoff complains about the delay in obtaining motors for the ventilation system of the morgues, and he expressed particular frustration with the fact that the ventilator of Leichenkeller 1 fails, a piece of machinery "that is needed with special urgency." He asks for immediate shipment of that piece of machinery, "because otherwise the installation can not be taken into operation." It is important to note, in this context, that the morgue of crematorium 1, located in the main camp, operated for years without any mechanical or natural ventilation system at all. This indicates that in Auschwitz the lack of ventilation was, in principle, no obstacle for using a space as a morgue.

Then there is the letter of March 6, 1943, discussed above, that suggests to pre-heat morgue 1. On March 31, 1943 Karl Bischoff refers in a letter to the German Armament works to a Gastür or gasdoor to be made for Leichenkeller 1 of crematorium 3, and specifies that it is to be an exact copy of the one made for crematorium 2, that is with a spy-hole of double 8mm glass with rubber seal and metal fitting. That same day Bischoff signs a transfer document for crematorium 2 that lists in the main inventory of the basement a Gasdichtetür or gas-tight door for morgue 1 and in a second inventory attached as an appendix for that same morgue 1 four Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtung(en) or wire mesh introduction devices, and four Holzblenden or wooden covers. Finally the inventory of crematorium 3 of June 24 lists for morgue 1 the presence of a Gasdichtetür.

It is very difficult if not impossible to justify all these pieces of evidence with the assumption that, by March 1943 (crematorium 2) or June 1943 (crematorium 3) the basement still served the primary function to store corpses.

Holocaust deniers, including Rudolf, have tried to explain some of these pieces of evidence by assuming that morgue 1 was adapted into a Zyklon B delousing cellar. Such a suggestion could, in principle, explain the reference to an undressing room the letter of the SS garrison doctor from January 1943, or the use of the word Vergasungskeller in Bischoff's letter of January 29, 1943, or the letter of March 6, 1943 that suggests to pre-heat morgue 1, and also letter of March 31, 1943 with its reference to a Gastür - yet one would wonder why this door would need a spy-hole of double 8mm glass.

Yet it does not explain the reference to Sonderkeller in the memorandum from November 27, 1942, nor the fact that in the blueprint drawn in December 1942 the doors of morgue 1 were redesigned to open outwards. It neither explains the particular urgency of the ventilation system of morgue 1 expressed in the letter dated February 11, 1943, nor the four wire mesh introduction devices with their wooden covers mentioned in the inventory of March 31, 1943. On top of that, there is the fact that whenever possible delousing facilities followed a standard arrangement in which the gas chambers were accessible from an unclean side and opened up to a clean side, which were radically separated. Morgue 1 does not show such an arrangement. Furthermore there is no indication that there was a need for Zyklon B delousing facilities in 1943. Finally there is not a single document that even suggests that any of the basement spaces was ever considered for use as a delousing chamber. Holocaust deniers have tried to use a reference to an Entwesungs-Anlage or disinfestation arrangement in a statement of account drawn up by Topf on August 20, 1943 to argue that there is such proof, but they ignore the fact that an Entwesungsanlage does not use Zyklon B, but steam as a disinfecting agent. And there is neither a single piece of eyewitness testimony that attests to the use any of the morgues of crematorium 2 and 3 for delousing purposes.

A second alternative suggested by Holocaust deniers is that the morgues of crematoria 2 and 3 were meant as air-raid shelters. We will deal with this suggestion in greater detail when discussing Rudolf's section O: Air raid Shelters (pp. 305-307). But at this point it is quite clear that most of the evidence for a new purpose for those morgues, presented above, does not fit such a suggestion. And, once again, there is not a single document that directly refers to such a use of those spaces as air raid shelters, and neither is there a single piece of eyewitness evidence. Last modified:May 23, 2002 Technical/administrative contact:

(4) "Holes in the roof of morgue 1 at crematorium 2 have been found"

Re: L. Holes in the roof of morgue 1 at crematorium 2 (251- 282)

Professor Robert Jan Van Pelt {Report to the Irving/Lipstadt APPEAL Trial}

{see roof slab plans at}

The issue raised by Rudolf on pp. 251 to 283 of his affidavit concerns what, according to David Irving, was the core of his case. On the eleventh day of the case he had brought against Penguin Books Limited and Deborah E. Lipstadt, Irving stated during his cross-examination of me that his whole case depended on the existence of holes in the ruined roof of morgue 1 of crematorium 2. The point taken by Irving on this issue is typical of Holocaust denial: it selects a single link in the chain of evidence, and demands absolute proof of its validity in isolation from the rest of the evidence, thus conveniently ignoring the obvious historical truth that the existence of a fact may be inferred from other facts, often with a conviction approaching certainty.

Rudolf's approach in this section of his affidavit is somewhat similar. He attacks some of the direct evidence for the holes in the roof and the wire-mesh gassing columns. But he ignores entirely some of the important eyewitness accounts, such as those of Broad and Höss, and his attack on the testimony of others, such as Tauber and Olere, is merely collateral. Moreover, he suggests no credible reason why the eyewitnesses should be treated as having lied, and ignores the fact that their individual accounts are, as Mr. Justice Gray noted, largely free of the risk of cross-pollination. Finally, like many Holocaust deniers, in the process of negative criticism of individual pieces of evidence, Rudolf conspicuously avoids dealing with the fact that the evidence about the holes in the roof and their attending gas columns is but part of, and entirely consistent with, the wider picture of the homicidal gassing procedures in Auschwitz, which is presented by the evidence as a whole.

But all of this is probably no longer of importance because the holes in the roof of the gas chamber of crematorium 2 have been found. Attached to this report is a paper on the holes of crematorium 2. Entitled "A Report on Some Findings Concerning the Gas Chamber of Krematorium II in Auschwitz-Birkenau," it written by Daniel Keren, Ph.D., Jamie McCarthy, and Harry Mazal OBE.


In order to validate the results obtained by Keren, McCarthy and Mazal, I got Paul Zucchi, a senior partner of Yolles Engineering, one of the world's most prominent firms of consulting engineers, to review their report. I attach Zucchi's letter, dated March 11, 2001. It concludes as follows:

In conclusion, it is my professional view that the authors present a strong and sustainable case that openings described as Zyklon vents 1, 2 and 4 were installed in the roof of the building during the course of construction. 78 In addition to the Keren, McCarthy and Mazal's report on the holes, which appears to be conclusive evidence of the existence of these holes in the roof of the gas chamber of crematorium 2, I observe that the inventory of crematorium 2, attached to the transfer agreement of March 31, 1943, lists in morgue 1 the presence of four wire-mesh introduction devices and four wooden lids. These are obviously the gas columns that connected to the holes, and the covers to close the holes.

In these circumstances, there is no need to respond in detail to this section of Rudolf's affidavit. Last modified:May 23, 2002 Technical/administrative contact:

Letter from Paul Zucchi, Yolles Engineering, March 11, 2001

Regarding Draft Report on Holes in Roof of Krematorium II

The letter below was sent from Paul Zucchi of Yolles Engineering to Robert Jan Van Pelt, regarding a draft report on the holes in the roof of the gas chamber of Krematorium II at Auschwitz-Birkenau. For context, please see Van Pelt's commentary on this subject.

11 March 2001

Mr. Robert Jan Van Pelt, Ph.D 1 Rosedale Road, #203 Toronto, Ontario M4W 2P1

Dear Sir,

Re: Auschwitz-Birkenau Krematorium II Roof Openings Our Reference No. T010539

This is in response to your request that I review and provide my professional comments regarding the draft document titled, "A Report on Some Findings Concerning the Gas Chamber of Krematorium II in Auschwitz-Birkenau", prepared by Daniel Keren, PH.D, Jamie McCarthy and Harry W. Mazal OBE. My observations and comments relate to the elements described in the report as zyklon vents (openings) 1, 2 and 4, and indicated in figures 12, 13, 14, 15 and 17.

I wish to begin by stating that I am a Partner with the firm Yolles Partnership. Yolles is an international firm of structural engineers, which was founded in the early 1950's. The firm has been involved in the structural design of numerous significant developments around the world including Canary Wharf in London and the World Financial Center in New York. My CV is attached.

I also wish to state that I did not visit the site and base my opinions solely on the content of the above draft report and the figures (photographs) contained therein. I assume that the observations made concerning the holes, the measurements taken, as well as the reports on conditions of reinforcement are correct and readily verifiable.


The report indicates on page 21 that reinforcement in the roof slab is spaced at approximately 15cm in both directions. On the basis that the openings are approximately 50cm square, one would expect that, unless the reinforcement was curtailed on either side of the opening as the authors assert, two to three bars of reinforcement would cross each opening.

Although not required in an absolute sense, it is a standard detail in our industry to curtail and hook abutting reinforcement short of openings or slab edges. The attached typical detail demonstrating this principle is one we have used in our office throughout the 20 years I have worked at Yolles.

The report states on page 12 (item 2) that the edges of the three holes which could be located (1, 2, and 4) are consistently located 30cm from the edge of the central beam (or the centres of the holes are located 75cm from the centre line of the beam). This position very nearly coincides with the "point of inflection of bending." Flexural stresses are at a minimum at the point of inflection and at the outer walls. In other words, structurally, the point of inflection is an ideal location to introduce an opening.

I would consider it unusual to curtail and hook reinforcement in a slab of this nature, unless one were dealing with slab edges, opening edges or top reinforcement at a points of inflection.

Opening 1 (Fig. 12):

As indicated in the report, no reinforcement is visible within the proposed area of the opening. The western, northern and southern edges appear reasonably well defined and square. Damage at the east edge is likely related to the separation of the beam from the column during the demolition caused by explosion.

Opening 2 (Fig. 17):

The presence of "clean-cut rebars ... bent inward on the edges" would indicate the presence of a slab edge or opening. The consistent 50cm square size and consistent distance from the central beam are also worthy of note.

Opening 4 (Fig's 13, 14 and 15):

The bent bars on either side of the hole make a strong case for the presence of an opening here, particularly since some of the reinforcement bars hook into the same piece of concrete. I concur with the authors that this latter situation could not have occurred as a result of an explosion.

Again, the consistent 50cm square size and consistent distance from the central beam are significant.

In conclusion, it is my professional view that the authors present a strong and sustainable case that openings described as zyklon vents 1, 2 and 4 were installed in the roof of the building during the course of construction.

Yours faithfully, Yolles Partnership Inc.


Paul Zucchi, P.Eng. Partner

Enclosures (2)

{see slab plans at}

A raw scan of the fax of this letter is available in image form, but the images are quite large (430K total). Last modified: November 27, 2003 Copyright © 2001-3 The Holocaust History Project. All rights reserved. Technical/administrative contact: ==

(5) Areial Photos of 4 holes in the roofs of Kremas II & III

"Gas Chambers" could not have been used for gassing

Holocaust Deniers Say:

No holes have ever been found in the roofs of the gas chambers in Cremas 1, 2 and 3 in Auschwitz through which the Zyklon-B was supposedly introduced, therefore there was no mass murder of Jews in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Holocaust deniers claim that if there were no holes in the roofs then the structures could not have been gas chambers and Auschwitz was not an extermination camp. If Auschwitz was not an extermination camp, then the Holocaust did not happen.

"No holes, no Holocaust!" David Irving, whom the High Court in London declared to be a Holocaust denier, racist and antisemite, advanced this slogan as part of his libel accusation against Professor Deborah Lipstadt during David Irving v. Penguin, UK and Deborah Lipstadt in London (2000). During the cross-examination of Professor Robert Jan van Pelt, who wrote the expert witness report on Auschwitz for the trial, Irving asked: "And do you accept . . . that if you were to go to Auschwitz the day after tomorrow with a trowel and clean away the gravel [from the ruins of Cremas 2 or 3] and find a reinforced concrete hole . . . this would make an open and shut case and I would happily abandon my action immediately?" 1

Robert Faurisson, a French denier, said about Crema 2 at Birkenau: "The caved-in roof of this supposed mass extermination 'gas chamber' has visibly never had any of the four special holes . . . through which, we are told, Zyklon B pellets were poured in. This being the case, how, simply, could an execution gassing operation have even begun here at Birkenau, the core of the so-called Holocaust'?" 2

What are the holes in the roof?

When Heinrich Himmler, the Reichsführer of the SS, ordered that Auschwitz was to become the center of the Final Solution, Cremas 2 and 3 were in the process of being built in Birkenau. In both buildings (which are identical), two existing underground rooms originally designed to be used as morgues were easily adapted to become an undressing room and a gas chamber room.

On the flat roofs of the gas chamber rooms, four holes were chopped in the concrete and a chimney was built over them, which was covered with a gas-tight lid. It was through these holes that the Zyklon-B was dropped into the gas chamber.


Zyklon-B was the product name for the blue-green chalk pellets which were soaked with a highly poisonous liquid called hydrogen cyanide (HCN). It was a powerful pesticide and was also used in industrial applications. The chalk pellets were kept in a vacuum-sealed can because when they were exposed to the air poisonous HCN gas was released. After the HCN dispersed into the air, only the harmless inert pellets were left to be collected and disposed of later.

Zyklon-B was introduced into the gas chambers at Auschwitz through holes in the roof in three of the gas chambers (Crema 1 in Main Camp and Cremas 2 and 3 in Auschwitz-Birkenau) or through windows covered with gas-tight shutters in the other four facilities (Cremas 4 and 5 and the two peasant cottages at the back of Birkenau).

Why is it difficult to spot the holes in the roof today?

Crema 1 in Auschwitz I (the Main Camp)

Crema 1 is still intact. It was restored by the Museum authorities to its appearance when it was used as a gas chamber in early 1942 and today is a memorial and reflection space. 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. 3 You can see pictures of this building at:

Cremas 2 and 3 in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Cremas 2 and 3 were originally built as cremation facilities. Each crema had two underground rooms which were intended to be used as morgues in anticipation of a large population increase in the camp and therefore more deaths. When the mission of Auschwitz was changed to become an extermination center for European Jews, the two existing underground morgue rooms in both Cremas 2 and 3 were adapted to become one undressing room and one gas chamber room. Both buildings were identical in design.

In late 1944, both Cremas 2 and 3 were blown up to cover the Germans' genocidal activities. Today all that remains of these buildings are the outlines of the underground rooms into which the ceilings and walls have collapsed. They look like a dry swimming pool full of concrete and rubble. The part of the buildings where the ovens were housed is just a heap of crushed concrete, masonry and metal. You can see what these buildings look like today at:

So what evidence do we have for the holes in the roofs of the gas chambers in Cremas 1, 2 and 3?

Hans Stark, a member of the Auschwitz Gestapo, testified at the Auschwitz trial in Frankfurt in 1963 that in the Main Camp gassings were carried out "in a room in the small crematorium which had been prepared for this purpose." Stark told the court that the roof above the gas chamber room was flat with openings through which "Zyklon B in granular form" was poured. On at least one occasion Stark himself poured the Zyklon-B in the holes.

Stark recalled after the war that the Zyklon-B "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 . . . After a few minutes there was silence. After some time had passed, it may have been ten or fifteen minutes, the gas-chamber was opened. The dead lay higgledy-piggledy all over the place. It was a dreadful sight." 4

Filip Müller, a Slovak Jew who arrived in Auschwitz in April 1942, was put to work as an oven stoker in Crema 1. Müller's job was to drag the corpses from the morgue-turned-gas chamber to the ovens and sort and remove valuables from the abandoned clothing. Later, he was transferred to Birkenau to work in the crematoria and burning pits there.

Müller gave a detailed description of the process of murder in both the Main Camp and Birkenau. He recalled one such gassing in Crema 1: "When the last one had crossed the threshold, two SS leaders slammed shut the heavy iron-studded door which was fitted with a rubber seal, and bolted it . . . the Unterführers on duty had gone onto the crematorium roof . . . They removed the covers from the six camouflaged openings. There, protected by gas-masks, they poured the green-blue crystals of the deadly gas into the gas chamber." 5

Photographic evidence of the existence of the holes in the roofs in the gas chambers in Cremas 2 and 3

In the fall of 1944, Allied planes flew over Auschwitz and on August 25 they captured the cremas and gas chambers at Auschwitz on a reconnaissance film.

The underground gas chambers in Cremas 2 and 3 are visible from the outline of the berm of earth and grass that covered them. The introduction chimneys are clearly visible on the roof as four dark squares staggered side to side down the length of the room. 6 You can see this picture at: .

{Krema II & III aerial photo, high resolution - is no longer at the above URL, but is archived multiple times at for more archived copies see*/}

Holocaust deniers claim that these aerial photos have been tampered with and the black spots on the roof were added later. 7 In 1996, experts at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, one of the world leaders of the analysis of aerial and satellite images, examined the negatives carefully. The JPL experts found no evidence of forgery or tampering. The markings on the roof were on the original negative. 8

The Germans themselves also documented their construction work around the camp with cameras. In December 1942 they took a picture of the construction work underway on Crema 2. The picture included the roof of the gas chamber room shortly before its completion and before it was covered with dirt and grass. On the flat roof there are clear images of the protruding chimneys over the holes. You can see this picture at: .

Further scientific evidence regarding the holes in the roofs of the gas chambers in Cremas 1, 2 and 3:

A properly authorized and rigorously conducted forensic study was done in 2000 by qualified experts. The experts unearthed a photograph of the roof of Crema 1 that clearly shows five holes in the roof which had been resealed after the building was abandoned as a gas chamber and turned into an air raid shelter in late 1944. 9 Adam Zlobnicki recalls the restoration of the holes in the roof: "Those who reconstructed them had an easy task because the erstwhile introduction holes and had distinct traces . . . Thus, they constructed in the same places again the openings for the little chimneys." 10 The fifth hole was not reopened.

The same study identified the location of three of the four holes in the badly damaged roof of Crema 2. The study found "clear signs of openings; straight cast edges in the concrete of the roof; rebar cut cleanly (i.e., not stretched by the explosion); the absence of rebar in the area within the holes; and the presence of rebar bent inwards at the edges of the holes." 11 The fourth hole is partly hidden by a fold in the rubble created by the explosion and only the edge of it can be seen.


There are multiple forms of evidence -- both material and documentry -- which prove the existence of gas chambers in Auschwitz. Crema 1, 2 and 3 had holes in the roof for the introduction of Zyklon-B into the gas chamber below. Both perpetrator and survivor eyewitness testimony document their existence and use.

Contemporary photographs taken in 1944 by Allied aircraft also show the chimneys over the holes in the roof.

Further, a rigorous and authorized forensic study conducted in 2000 on the roofs of Crema 1 and Crema 2 (which is identical to Crema 3) have located and proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that these holes existed. The Holocaust deniers' claim of "No Holes, No Holocaust" is only wishful thinking.


1. Robert Jan van Pelt, The Case for Auschwitz: Evidence from the Irving Trial (Indiana University Press, 2002): p. 3. See also Transcript, Day 11, p. 151 at ("Transcripts.")

2. Robert Faurisson, "The Gas Chambers of Auschwitz,"

3. Daniel Keren, Jamie McCarthy, and Harry W. Mazal, "The Ruins of the Gas Chambers: A Forensic Investigation of Crematoriums at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau," Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 18(1), Spring 2004: pp. 68-103. For the discussion on Crema 1 see p. 98.

4. Robert Jan van Pelt, Expert Witness Report for 2000 trial: pp. 514, 515 at , ("Evidence.")

5. Filip Müller, Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chamber (Ivan R. Dee, 1979): p. 38.

6. Van Pelt, Case for Auschwitz: p. 353; van Pelt, Expert Witness Report, Plate 52 following pp. 369, 370.

7. John Ball, "Air Photo Evidence,"

8. Van Pelt, Case for Auschwitz: p. 354.

9. Keren, McCarthy, and Mazal, "The Ruins of the Gas Chambers." See pp. 97-99 and photographs in center section.

10. Ibid.

11. Ibid., p. 73.

(6) Zyklon Introduction Columns - 4 patches visible in US airforce photo Krema II 1944

Zyklon Introduction Columns

by Jamie McCarthy and Mark Van Alstine


At Auschwitz-Birkenau, in the gas chambers of crematoria II and III, Zyklon-B was poured in through holes in the roof. After early experiments with this poison, the camp staff had learned that it was important to allow the pellets of Zyklon to be removed after the victims' death, and also to spread them to increase the speed of outgassing.

The solution to these problems was a wire mesh column, which ran from the floor up through the roof. An SS man, wearing a gas mask and standing on the roof, would pour the pellets into the top of the column and place a wooden cover over it. The pellets fell into an inner wire mesh basket, which held them as they released their poison into the gas chamber.

After the mass murder was complete, the cover was opened, the basket was pulled up, and the Zyklon expelled the remainder of its poison harmlessly into the open air. Meanwhile, the ventilation of the gas chamber and the cremation of the corpses could begin.

These columns are listed in the inventory of crematorium II, March 31, 1943, as "wire-mesh insertion devices" (Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtung) with "wooden covers" (Holzblenden). Schematic

Below is a schematic cross-section of the introduction column, viewed from the side. Each of the measurements has been collected from various eyewitness testimonial sources; they have been synthesized into this drawing. The measurements shown are the best approximations of those sources, but should not be considered to be exact to the centimeter.

Sources: Gutman, Yisrael, and Michael Berenbaum, Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, 1994; Pressac, Jean-Claude, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York, 1989.


Michal Kula, a former prisoner who worked in the metalworking shop of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, gave a deposition describing the introduction columns in June 1945. Below is a sketch illustrating what he described in that deposition. The captions are from Jean-Claude Pressac's book Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, which was originally published in French; the translations are below.

This sketch shows the smaller "wire basket," above the column into which it was inserted. This "movable part" is what actually held the pellets of Zyklon as they gave off the poison gas, and is what was pulled up once the gassing operation was complete.


PARTIE MOBILE MOVABLE PART Coiffe en tôle Metal cap Intervalle separant le tube en tôle du 3ème tamis: 25 mm Space between the metal tube and the third lattice: 25 mm Troisième tamis intérieur à maille de 1 mm de côté Third, innermost, lattice of 1 mm mesh Tube en fine tôle zinguée de 15 cm de côté Thin galvanized metal tube, 15 cm square PARTIE FIXE FIXED PART Pièce de métal reliant les 1er et 2ème tamis Metal strip joining the first and second lattices Premier tamis extérieur en fil de 3 mm de diamètre et de maille de 45 mm de côté First, external, lattice of 3 mm diameter wire, 45 mm mesh Deuxième tamis intérieur à maille de 25 mm de côté Second, interior, lattice of 25 mm mesh 3 m environ Approximately 3 m Cornières de 50 x 50 x 10 mm Angle irons, 50 x 50 x 10 mm

Source: Pressac, Jean-Claude, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York, 1989, p. 487.

Erber's Testimony

In 1981, historian Gerald Fleming spoke to former SS-Sergeant Major Josef Houstek, who had changed his name to Josef Erber after serving at Auschwitz. Erber described the columns as appearing slightly different:

In each of these gassing areas [of the crematoria [II and III] in Birkenau] were two ducts: in each duct, four iron pipes ran from the floor to the roof. These were encased with steel mesh wire and inside there was a tin canister with a low rim. Attached to this tin was a wire by which it could be pulled up to the roof. When the lids were lifted, one could pull up the tin canister and shake the gas crystals into it. Then the canister was lowered, and the lid closed. 6

6. Prisoner Josef Erber to author, 14 September 1981.

The "four iron pipes" are presumably the four corners around which the outside mesh was wrapped. The tin canister lowered by a wire may be an earlier, or later, version of the inside "wire basket" described by Kula.

Source: Fleming, Gerald, Hitler and the Final Solution, 1984, p. 188.

Tauber's Description

Henryk Tauber gave a deposition in May 1945 which included a description of the columns:

The side of these pillars, which went up through the roof, were of heavy wire mesh. Inside this grid, there was another of finer mesh and inside that a third of very fine mesh. Inside this last mesh cage there was a removable can which was pulled out with a wire to recover the pellets from which the gas had evaporated.


The undressing room and the gas chamber were covered first with a concrete slab then with a layer of soil sown with grass. There were four small chimneys, the openings through which the gas was thrown in that rose above the gas chamber.

Source: Pressac, Jean-Claude, op.cit., p. 484.

Aerial View

Allied reconnaissance planes gained the military ability to overfly the Auschwitz area in mid-1944. The nearby IG Farben plant produced synthetic rubber and oil, and was of military interest for that reason, but several photographs were also taken of the Birkenau camp. On August 25, 1944, a plane captured this view of Birkenau, including the gas chambers of crematoria II and III.

On this photograph, crematorium II is in the rectangle at middle-right, and crematorium III is at the lower right. North is to the bottom.

Below, an enlargement of the same photograph shows the building of crematorium II. At bottom, the crematorium chimney casts a long shadow. Extending up (south) from the building is the underground gas chamber, Leichenkeller 1. Four dark patches are visible, corresponding to the four "little chimneys" of the introduction columns.

Source: U.S. National Archives, Record Group 317 - Auschwitz Box Envelope 17 / Security Set - CIA Annotated Negative #17, photograph of August 25, 1944.

Ground View

Below is a ground view of the same crematorium, looking north from its south. On the right is the crematorium building with its chimney visible. Jean-Claude Pressac places the date of this photograph between February 9 and 11, 1943. The building is still being constructed and will not be completed until late March 1943.

The gas chamber Leichenkeller 1, just to the right of the train's smokestack, extends toward the camera and slightly to the right.

Below, an enlargement from the same photograph shows the gas chamber. Like the rest of the building, it is under construction. It has not yet been covered with earth, making the "little chimneys" look taller than they would end up being.

Careful photographic analysis has shown that the two dark short vertical shadows, under the middle window in this photo, are the two southernmost "little chimneys." (The dark rectangle to their right appears to be against the wall of the building, behind the gas chamber. It is unknown what the shorter, lighter-gray shadow is to their left. The light vertical lines in front of the gas chamber are fenceposts.) The third "little chimney" is behind the smokestack, and a top corner of the fourth can barely be seen, just to the left of the smokestack, and mostly obscured by the mound of snow-covered earth. From this angle, their placement is staggered due to the east-west alternation.

Source: Pressac, Jean-Claude, Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers, Beate Klarsfeld Foundation, New York, 1989, p. 340. Cited by Pressac as PMO neg. no. 20995/494, Kamann series. And Keren, Daniel, Jamie McCarthy, and Harry W. Mazal, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Oxford University Press, Vol. 18, No. 1, Spring 2004, pp. 68ff.: "The Ruins of the Gas Chambers: A Forensic Investigation of Crematoriums at Auschwitz I and Auschwitz-Birkenau."

A Similar Vent

A rare photograph of a similar introduction vent from Majdanek, not Auschwitz, has been preserved. Majdanek was also a camp where mass gassings were performed.

When the Red Army arrived in July 1944 the soldiers found huge warehouses spilling over with goods. They discovered dead bodies and further evidence of a full range of atrocities, which they publicized immediately to the world presses.

(Feig, Konnilyn, Hitler's Death Camps, 1979, p. 330.)

A Soviet army man posed for this photograph, holding the device's cover, standing next to the device itself. It was published in the London press in October 1944. It is unknown how similar this actually looked to the "little chimneys" of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Source: The Illustrated London News, October 14, 1944, p. 442.


Holocaust-deniers reject that these columns even existed. The convergence of this evidence, including the compelling testimonies giving details before corroborating documentary evidence was unearthed, is ignored.

Kula's and Tauber's depositions describing the "wire-mesh insertion devices," decades before the corroborating documentary evidence was discovered in the archives, cannot be explained away. Houstek/Erber's description of the same devices, also before that evidence was discovered, is also a powerful corroboration.

Deniers will likely argue that the minor differences in their descriptions mean we should ignore them. But should we really expect to find identical accounts? The prisoners gave their descriptions months after the fact; the perpetrator, 35 years later. That may account for some of the difference. Just as importantly, we do not know if the Nazis in charge of the gassing operation tried slightly different types of equipment from time to time.

Indeed, if all three descriptions were exactly alike, we might suspect that the later account was copied from the earlier ones. Because they are not, we know that here are three separate eyewitnesses to these items.

Holocaust-deniers reject the validity of the aerial photographs, claiming that the four dark spots on the roof of each gas chamber were retouchings added by the CIA or some other conspiracy. John Ball, who has no expertise in interpreting aerial photographs, suggests either that hypothesis or, alternatively, that the dark spots were flowerpots sitting on each gas chamber.

The objects shown on the roof in the ground photo, say some deniers, are ordinary boxes of construction material.

Deniers also claim that there is no evidence of four holes in the roof of each gas chamber. Because the chambers were dynamited in an attempt to hide evidence of mass murder from the approaching Soviet army, the roofs have collapsed and it is difficult to tell in the rubble what is a hole and what is not. Later this year, an essay on this website will address this question in detail.

Finally, Holocaust-deniers intentionally confuse the solid support columns for the gas chamber roof with the wire-mesh columns. As obvious evidence of their crimes, the latter would have been removed by the Nazis from the gas chambers before they were blown up. Ludicrously, deniers show photos of the solid columns as proof that the wire-mesh columns never existed.

Such feeble attempts to rewrite history do not stand.

Thanks go to Holocaust History Project volunteer Harry Mazal for research assistance.

Last modified: October 30, 2005 Technical/administrative contact: ==

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