SS man spends a day at the Gas Chambers

Jews are forced into boxcars destined for the Belzec extermination camp. Lublin, Poland, 1942.

Kurt Gerstein had been imprisoned by the Nazis before the war because of his religious convictions and anti-Nazi views. In 1941 he succeeded in joining the SS with the purpose of investigating the euthansia extermination camps. He very rapidly rose through the ranks of the SS because of his education and scientific background.

In August 1942 SS-Obersturmfuhrer Kurt Gerstein was on a tour of inspection of the extermination camps, in his capacity a Hygiene Inspector for the SS. He was being consulted about the methods to be used for disinfecting the vast quantities of clothing coming into the hands of the Nazis. He now saw at first hand the work at Belzec, Treblinka and Majdanek.

As soon as the war was concluded Kurt Gerstein completed a long account of what he had witnessed for the Allies. The evidence was accepted at the Nuremburg War Crimes trials and was corroborated by other witnesses:

18th August 1942

Belzec

The next morning, shortly before 7 a.m. someone announced to me: “In ten minutes the first transport will come!” In fact the first train arrived after some minutes, from the direction of Lemberg. 45 wagons with 6,700 people of whom 1,450 were already dead on arrival. Behind the barred hatches children as well as men and women looked out, terribly pale and nervous, their eyes full of the fear of death. The train comes in: 200 Ukrainians fling open the doors and whip the people out of the wagons with their leather whips.

The people were then forced to undress and packed into the Gas chambers:

The people stand on each other`s feet. 700-800 people in an area of twenty-five square metres, in forty-five cubic metres! The SS literally cram them together as much as possible. – The doors close. Meanwhile the others are waiting outside naked in the open air.

Someone said to me: ‘It`s like this in winter as welll’ ‘Yes, but they could catch their death,” I say. ‘Well, that’s exactly what they’re there for,’ said an SS man to me.

Lorenz Hachenholt operated the Gas chambers at Belzec extermination camp.

Now I finally understand why the whole institution is called the Hackenholt Foundation. Hackenholt is the driver of the diesel motor, a little mechanic who designed the installation. The diesel exhaust fumes are meant to kill these people. But the engine is not working! Hauptmann Wirth arrives.

Christian Wirth, commander of Belzec death camp.

You can see that he is embarrassed that it should happen today of all days, when I’m here. So yes, there I am watching! I wait. My stopwatch has registered everything faithfully. 50 minutes 70 seconds – the engine still has not started! The people are waiting in their gas-chamber. In vain. You can hear them crying, sobbing …. Hauptmann Wirth hits the Ukrainian who is supposed to be helping the Unterscharfuhrer with the engine, twelve or thirteen times in the face with his riding-crop.

After two hours, forty-nine minutes – the stopwatch has registered everything – the diesel engine starts. All this time the people have been inside the four chambers, four lots of 750 people in four lots of forty-five cubic metres! A further twenty- five minutes pass. Right, many are now dead. One can see that through the tiny window as the electric light illuminates the chambers for a moment. After twenty-eight minutes only a few are still alive. Finally, after thirty-two minutes all are dead!

See The Gerstein Report

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