There was a huge bureaucracy surrounding the organisation of the Nazi death ‘camps’ and the concentration camps and they kept detailed records of almost everything. There was even an SS ‘inspectorate’ that went around checking on the ‘efficiency’ of the operation. Despite the best efforts of the Nazis to destroy all the documentary evidence of the Holocaust towards the end of the war, some papers survived.
One valuable document that survived was written just after an SS inspection of the Gas chambers at Auschwitz on 14-16 May 1943. It is important because it gives an official overview of the process. It also acknowledges a shift in policy, not every Jew would be killed, some would be allowed to live as a “precious” labour force:
The Auschwitz camp plays a special role in the resolution of the Jewish question. The most advance methods permit the execution of the Fuehrer-order in the shortest possible time and without arousing much attention. The so-called “resettlement action” runs the following course:
The Jews arrive in special trains (freight cars) toward evening and are driven on special tracks to areas of the camp specifically set aside for this purpose.
There the Jews are unloaded and examined for their fitness to work by a team of doctors, in the presence of the camp commandant and several SS officers. At this point anyone who can somehow be incorporated into the work program is put in a special camp.
The curably ill are sent straight to a medical camp and are restored to health through a special diet. The basic principle behind everything is: conserve all manpower for work. The previous type of “resettlement action” has been thoroughly rejected, since it is too costly to destroy precious work energy on a continual basis.
The unfit go to cellars in a large house which are entered from outside. They go down five or six steps into a fairly long, well-constructed and well-ventilated cellar area, which is lined with benches to the left and right. It is brightly lit, and the benches are numbered.
The prisoners are told that they are to be cleansed and disinfected for their new assignments. They must therefore completely undress to be bathed. To avoid panic and to prevent disturbances of any kind, they are instructed to arrange their clothing neatly under their respective numbers, so that they will be able to find their things again after their bath.
Everything proceeds in a perfectly orderly fashion. Then they pass through a small corridor and enter a large cellar room which resembles a shower bath. In this room are three large pillars, into which certain materials can be lowered from outside the cellar room. When three- to four-hundred people have been herded into this room, the doors are shut, and containers filled with the substances are dropped down into the pillars.
As soon as the containers touch the base of the pillars, they release particular substances that put the people to sleep in one minute. A few minutes later, the door opens on the other side, where the elevator is located. The hair of the corpses is cut off, and their teeth are extracted (gold-filled teeth) by specialists (Jews). It has been discovered that Jews were hiding pieces of jewelry, gold, platinum etc., in hollow teeth.
Then the corpses are loaded into elevators and brought up to the first floor, where ten large crematoria are located. (Because fresh corpses burn particularly well, only 50-100 lbs. of coke are needed for the whole process.) The job itself is performed by Jewish prisoners, who never step outside this camp again.
The results of this “resettlement action” to date: 500,000 Jews. Current capacity of the “resettlement action” ovens: 10,000 in 24 hours.
Report entitled “Resettlement of Jews” written by SS-Sturmbannfuehrer Gricksch for SS-Col. von Herff and Reichsfuehrer-SS Himmler, after inspection of Auschwitz camp on 14-16 May 1943. [Hitler and the Final Solution – G. Fleming, University of California Press, 1984, p. 142-143]