“..you were saved not ..to live ..you must give testimony ..be courageous when ..mind deceives you be courageous in ..final account only this is important.” Zbigniew Herbert.
There is not enough justice in this World to come to terms with the outrage related to the Slaughter of 6,000,000 Jews of Europe, The Holocaust. Given that there were 7,000,000 card carrying Nazi’s, Germans who followed the bitter hatred of Hitler and his mockery of both eugenics and superiority, there should be evidence enough to convict all of those. But, and whether for their complicity, both active and or sponsored, contrived to deliver the most heinous crimes ever perpetrated in all of our History, Justice must always be seen, and to be served.
“..10 years old when ..Nazis marched into Warsaw. My sister was in ..hospital having her first baby. I was about to be an uncle. That night we went to ..hospital to visit my sister. Soldiers throwing bundles out of windows and catching them on their bayonets surrounded .. hospital. Blood was everywhere. We never saw ..baby or my sister. ..Nazis put my family in ..camps. My father and I were together. We never saw my mother and sisters again. My father died. I promised him I would write our story.” Ben Edelbaum.
However, the burgeoning truth, in any search for this integrity so omitted from any Justice for an eviscerated Jewish Community, must weigh heavily with accusation as to why. Justice performed must be witnessed in how it is served up and we cannot simply assume, because we have had International Military Tribunals to attach some form of justice to the Nazi hierarchy, that any appreciable Justice has been served. We cannot then allow for History to simply accept, beings as have held a few derisory we have held trials and therefore justice has been seen to
“..this is no empty phrase ..despite their power ..we knew ..ultimately we would defeat them ..we ..weak ones ..because in this lay our strength. We believed in justice ..in humanity ..in a regime different from ..one which they glorified.” Zivia Lubetkin.
Everyone will have an opinion on who is and what makes a Nazi and in the case of The Holocaust, what then propelled these ordinary human beings into an extraordinary inhuman atrocity toward 6,000,000 Jews of Europe. Of course, in the case of Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, Eichmann and Hoess, we know full well the terrible stain they have placed upon humanity. History, the World nor its supposed humanity will ever recover however, and very much like Himmler and his expression of the decent Jew an A1 Jew:
“..Jewish race is being exterminated ..that’s quite clear ..it’s in our program ..elimination of ..Jews ..we’re doing it exterminating them. ..then they come ..80 million worthy Germans ..and each one has his decent Jew. Of course ..others are vermin ..but this one is an A1 Jew. Not one of all those who talk this way has witnessed it ..not one of them has been through it. Most of you must know what it means when 100 corpses are lying side by side ..or 500 or 1,000. To have stuck it out and at ..same time ..apart from exceptions caused by human weakness ..to have remained decent fellows ..that is what has made us hard. This is a page of glory in our history which has never been written and is never to be written.” Heinrich Himmler.
This, all being processed as to how we can judge theses Nazi’s all simply complicates our own humanity in dealing humanely with such an atrocity. Do we simply accept all Nazi’s are as guilty as the other or is there a hierarchy of evil which places Hitler above Himmler. Then, ever flowing downward from the top of the pyramid until we are at the bottom and we are assessing the scale of the atrocity meted out by the foot soldier who knows full well what it means to see 1,000’s upon 1,000’s of Jewish dead laying side by side.
“..Belzec ..Treblinka ..Majdanek I have visited personally in detail ..together with ..leader of these facilities ..Polizeihauptmann Wirth.” Kurt Gerstein.
I have no wish to complicate this issue as each remains as guilty as the next in perpetration, participation, complicity or duplicitous in their conduct to outrage our human sensitivity. But herein lies the rub as we approach the likes of Oscar Schindler and perhaps more importantly, SS Obersturmfuhrer Kurt Gerstein. I sought many ways, in my research for Hitler’s Belzec, to come to terms with the enigma that appears to be this erstwhile gassing stroke disinfection specialist who penetrates the very narrative of hatred in Belzec, amongst other’s of the Death Camp’s in Poland he visited.
“..Anyone who spoke to ..enemy about ..extermination program ..like Kurt Gerstein ..is a shit with ears.” Adolf Eichmann.
In fact we have the very detailed report he set before us which might suggest that Hitler had 25 million people extinguished from existence. How many of these were Jews is an arguable confrontation with the very conservative estimate we have of 6,000,000 Jews of Europe, Slaughtered, The Holocaust. So where does Gerstein reside alongside those like Stangl or Wirth in officiating the very detail of the Slaughter. It remains difficult to see in other than his effort, a nazi who aspired to betray the very detail of The Holocaust he was meant to bring to fruition.
“..I used all these negotiations to make known in a skilful way or at least to intimate ..fact of ..killing of ..Jews.” Kurt Gerstein.
History might well prove that Gerstein’s assessment is more accurate than history will allow, while his application of the Zyklon ‘B’ insecticide in disinfecting 40 million kilograms of what Jewish Clothing remained after the killing exercise, had thus proved how lethal Zyklon ‘B’ had become to Jewish existence. All of this might prove mere conjecture or yet, it might prove that Gerstein was not as bad a nazi as some other’s where?
“..Surviving as a prisoner of ..Nazis was a hard and bitter struggle. In ..face of ..generous freedoms ..our persecution was even more difficult to translate. I felt pain ..lots of pain ..but I had to suppress it. I envied everyone everywhere who had escaped this terrible ordeal. ..in 1949 people had already heard of Hitler and his deeds and were not eager to hear more. Only later generations wanted to know what had happened to ..European Jewry. By this time a new term had arisen to identify ..Nazis’ mass murder and torture of millions of European Jews ..Holocaust.” Benjamin Jacobs.
It is important, given the detail that Gerstein wishes to pass on to posterity that we look consciously at what Gerstein not only reports, but the reasoning behind why he chose to report it. Gerstein has been in search of the truth as to why Hitler saw fit to kill those Hitler personally saw as ‘undesirable’. Amongst those for whom Hitler saw there was no room on Earth for was Kurt Gerstein’s Sister-in-Law, Bertha Ebeling. Bertha was Murdered at the Hadamar Euthanasia Institute and Gerstein set about exposing the racial hatred bred from eugenics toward The Final Solution of The Jewish Question.
“..Behold ..historian called to render his account. He does so not without an inner tremor. What craftsman ..grown old in his trade ..has not asked himself with a sudden qualm whether he has spent his life wisely. ..question far transcends ..minor scruples of a professional conscience. ..our entire Western civilisation is concerned in it.” Marc Bloch.
The resolve for die Endlosung der Judenfrage meant that every camp in the third Reich proved the potential to eliminate all opposition. Of that proposed opposition Hitler saw to it that the Jewish People were at the forefront of that aim and hence, the eventual construction of The Death Camp. To facilitate the systematic destruction of the Jews of Europe, and it is by no means unconnected that Poland was chosen as the site of this devastation as all methodology was evolved to ensure, as The Wannsee Conference protocol would demand, the destruction of 11,293,300 Jews.
“..Nazis were responsible for this tragedy it is they who murdered most of 3,000,000 Jews who lived in Poland before World War II. ..Germans were able to mobilize segments of ..Polish society to take part in their plan to hunt down ..Jews and help them carry out their Final Solution.” Jan Grabowski.
These Jews of all of Europe would be systematically sought for Slaughter and already this conference was too late as the level of atrocity heaped upon the Jews in Poland escalated post 1939. Now while every camp proved costly to Jewish life, The Death Camp was further enhanced and that demand to annihilate the Jews in all of Poland and then throughout the entirety of Europe, would take on an industrial process of such mechanised Slaughter, Hitler unhinged all those who served his purpose from all human morality.
“..Survival without renunciation of any part of one’s moral world apart from powerful and direct interventions by fortune was conceded only to very few superior individuals ..made of ..stuff of martyrs and saints.” Primo Levi.
Here too is where someone like Kurt Gerstein would emerge to deliver to History much of what he observed and then knew of. Already, while the Polish soil is saturated with the blood of too many of Polish Jewry, and eventually there would be some 4,500,000 Jews, 3,000,000 of whom would be Polish Jews, are strewn across what is now Judaism’s largest ever cemetery. This fact is of course, unless the correctional voice of polish history demands that, if all of Poland was a German satellite, were all of these Jews thus Murdered on German soil.
“..Written by ..Sonderkommando ..Crematorium II August 5th. 1944 ..Zalman Lewental ..Ciechanow ..Poland. No one can imagine exactly how things happened ..for it is unimaginable that a precise account of our experiences can be given. ..We ..a small group of grey people ..will give historians a ..hard time ..also ..psychologists who want to know ..investigate ..mental condition of ..people who tackled this dismal ..dirty work. ..who knows whether these investigators will fathom ..truth ..whether anyone will be able to thoroughly.” Zalman Lewental.
With that being the case, would all those Jews murdered who were murdered on this supposed German soil, would these Jews, including the Polish Jews, be asked to relinquish their former national status and then become German Jews. If the majority are no longer to be Polish Jewry, as History must remember them, who will claim them, own them and remember them. For me it a single matter! Poland either fights for the status of Poland, albeit it an occupied state, or it must relinquish its right to be Poland and subject the Slaughter of more than 3,000,000 Polish Jews to stateless ignominy.
“..Whoever exalts race ..or ..people ..or ..State ..or a particular form of State ..or ..depositories of power ..or any other fundamental value of ..human community ..however necessary and honourable be their function in worldly things ..whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level ..distorts and perverts an order of ..world planned and created by God ..he is far from ..true faith in God and from ..concept of life which that faith upholds.” Achille Ratti.
Here, alongside the hatred of a Jew is not yet antisemitism until it becomes the hatred of the Jew for being a Jew, and this is securely fixed to Hitler’s every utterance. Here though, and the use of this form of hatred which we are talking about is an illogical barrier to reason and was used by Hitler for personal, political and power seeking ideas. What then emerged as The Final Solution was later recalled to be The Holocaust. I am all too well aware of the controversy over the term but I stand by what was emerging as the dust was settling over the lifeless body of 6,000,000 Jews of Europe.
“..Jews were compelled to establish relations with an alien ..hostile government that regarded them as subhuman ..fit only for exploitation and extermination. ..human values in which they believed and on which they had built their lives tottered and collapsed. In this cruel reality ..Vilna Jewry struggled to survive and seek rescue. ..daily struggle was for life itself ..survive in ..face of hunger ..disease. Jewish Vilna embodied ..majority of hardships ..torment ..European Jewry ..underwent during The Holocaust ..its responses sum up most of ..options ..available to ..Jews during this tragic epoch. Vilna Jewry was a microcosm of ..fate of all Jewish communities in Eastern Europe.” Yitzhak Arad.
The very term The Holocaust, taken from the Greek original ‘holos’ meaning completely, and its borrowing from the Hebrew ‘olah’ is added to ‘kaustos’ to ensure the sacrificial offering, that the Jews became, was offered on the Death Camp, Concentration Camp, Ghetto and Killing Site altar to Hitler. For me, no part of this historical translation conceives of it being other than what Hitler demanded and what his cronies, acolytes and collaborator’s offered up for him and to him as so many wholly burned Jewish offerings as the Krematoria provided and Sk1005 would demand.
“..Everywhere I go ..I want people to know where I’m from ..my background ..where my family came from because of ..struggle they had to go through. Every week when I play and I see ..Israeli flag ..it brings me a lot of pride and I think it’s because of what my grandparents had to go through. Not just them but everybody during World War II and The Holocaust. That brings me anger but what I’m trying to do is bring ..anger and do something meaningful.” Laetitia Beck.
But before we arrive at the atrocity of The Holocaust, which Hitler fully adopted and adapted, the varying stages of both isolating and abusing German and Austrian Jewish Citizens was taken well before the decision to murder them all was made. Always, and it is impossible to come to terms with what translates as The Holocaust murder of 6,000,000 Jews of Europe, I resist the call to both dilute the term and move it away from what history has already established. The fact of enactment recognises in these 6,000,000 Murdered Jews a term that is used as their erstwhile resting place.
“..We could see a machine that took out ..corpses from ..graves and threw them into ..fire. There were a few such fires going simultaneously. At that time a dreadful smell dominated ..whole area ..a smell of burned human bones and bodies. From ..moment they began burning ..corpses ..from all directions of ..camp came ..smell of ..corpses. When ..Germans completed ..burning of ..corpses ..they dismantled ..camp.” Maria Daniel.
Even as Gerstein begins his search and as we go back to when the eventual slaughter was first formed in the minds of Hitler and his Nazified Germany, Gerstein was merely answering a humanitarian call for himself. There can be no understanding which can be reached that lays before history what Gerstein truly witnessed as these murdered Human Beings, sought out for being Jews, are then dismissed from life. The role for me is simple, and in ensuring not one single Jew is lost within the confinement of The Final Solution of The Jewish Question (die Endlosung der Judenfrage), The Holocaust recognises all of them.
“..On ..site where for 400 ghastly days ..blasphemy of Treblinka tormented human history there is now a monument. It shows in ..centre an enormous rock topped by a menorah to symbolise ..300,000 martyred Jews of Warsaw. ..rock is surrounded by huge slabs of concrete from which rises a forest of 1,000’s of granite pillars of varying shapes and sizes ..representing cities ..villages ..and shtetlach los in ..Holocaust. On 150 of them are carved ..names of ..localities from which ..murdered Jews came. ..massive pillars bear ..names of ..Country’s of ..victims origin.” Alexander Donat.
If these Jews of Europe are remembered, as those who are contained in The Holocaust, their Destruction will teach us better what tolerance must mean. All of this has proven, that in the past, an attempt to diminish and dilute the Jewish presence in the worst assault upon human civilisation Ever, cannot continue with the dissolving of their presence from the term which lends itself to their Slaughter, Extinction, Extirpation and Evisceration. To remove the term has failed on every level of unique, unparalleled, unprecedented and calculated effort Hitler invited to measure their passing.
“..Anne Frank wrote at ..end of her Diary ..she still believed people were good at heart ..I wonder what she would have thought if she had Survived ..Auschwitz and ..Belsen. ..people have a unique capacity for cruelty ..brutality ..indifference to human suffering. ..I have seen ..unedifying evidence of that at close hand ..it has led me to a lifetime of wondering about ..human soul.” Eva Schloss.
The systematic and planned governmental sponsorship of the Slaughter was so complete, when after Wannsee, Gerstein set about exposing the very detail of the Slaughter. So here is, presented to us a while before his life too was extinguished is a report of such revelation, even Eichmann sought to discredit its validity and suggest of the purveyor, Kurt Gerstein ‘is a shit with ears’. For me though, the truth is all that matters in this discourse we see in testimony for the remembrance of a vastness of loss as I maintain
Always to Remember, Never to Forget.
The Gerstein Report
May 4th. 1945
Kurt Gerstein, retired mining civil servant, graduate engineer, on 27 September 1936 released from the Höheren Preußischen Bergdienst because of subversive activity.
Born on 11 August 1905 in Münster (Westfalen), associate of the engineering works De Limon Fluhme & Co. in Düsseldorf, Industriestraße 1 – 17. Special factory for automatic grease systems for engines, Knorr- and Westinghouse brakes.
1905-1910 in Münster (Westfalen). 1910-1919 Saarbrücken. 1919 until 1921 Halberstadt. 1921-1925 Neuruppin near Berlin. There in 1925 school-leaving examination at the humanistic grammar school. Studies: University Marburg a. Lahn 1925-1927. Berlin 1927-1931, college of technology Aachen 1927. Graduate engineer examination 1931 in Berlin-Charlottenburg. Since 1925 active member of the organized Protestant Youth (CVJM-YMCA) and the bible circles at secondary schools.
Active follower of Brüning and Stresemann. – Since June 1933 persecuted by the Gestapo because of Christian activity against the Nazi State. On 2 May 1933 joined the NSDAP, on 2 October 1936 expulsion from the NSDAP because of subversive (religious) activity for the denominational church. At the same time expulsion as official from the civil service because of disturbing a party solemnity ceremony at the state theatre in Hagen (Westfalen) on 30 January 1935 – a performance of the drama “Wittekind” – thrashed in public and injured.
On 27 November 1935 mining service examination at the economics ministry in Berlin, all examinations passed with distinction. Until arrest on 27 September 1936 civil servant at the Saarland mines administration in Saarbrücken. This first arrest happened because of sending 8,500 subversive (re the Nazis) pamphlets to all heads of ministerial departments and high judicial officers in Germany. In accordance with a life-long wish I then studied medicine in Tübingen at the Deutsches Institut für Ärztliche Mission. This was possible because of my economic independence. As an associate of the De Limon Fluhme & Co. in Düsseldorf I earned an average income of 10,000 Reichsmark yearly. I used to spend approximately one third of this income for my religious ideals. In particular, I had 230,000 religious and anti-Nazi pamphlets printed and distributed at my own cost.
On 14 July 1938 my second arrest occurred, and I was committed to the Konzentrationslager Welzheim because of subversive activity. Before that I was frequently warned and interrogated by the Gestapo, and received a ban on speaking throughout the whole Reich area.
When I heard about the beginning of the killing of mentally ill persons at Grafeneck and Hadamar and other sites, I decided to make every effort to look into the matter of these ovens and chambers in order to learn what happened there. This was all the more relevant as a sister-in-law by marriage – Bertha Ebeling – was compulsorily killed in Hadamar. With two references from Gestapo officers who had worked on my case, I easily succeeded in joining the SS. The gentlemen took the view that my idealism, which they probably admired, must be of advantage to the Nazi cause. On 10 March 1941 I joined the SS. I received my basic training in Hamburg-Langenhorn, in Arnhem (Holland), and in Oranienburg. In Holland I immediately contacted the Dutch resistance movement (graduate engineer Ubbink, Doesburg).
Because of my dual studies I was soon taken over by the technical-medical service and allotted to the SS-Führungshauptamt, Amtsgruppe D, Sanitätswesen der Waffen-SS Abteilung Hygiene. I completed the training in a course together with 40 physicians. At the Hygienedienst I could determine my activities for myself. I constructed mobile and stationary disinfection facilities for the troops, for prisoner-of-war camps, and concentration camps. With this I had great success and was from then on undeservedly considered as a kind of technical genius. Indeed it turned out well at least to some extent, by getting the horrible epidemic typhus wave in 1941 in the camps under control. Because of my successes I soon became Leutnant and then Oberleutnant.
At Christmas 1941 the court which had ordered my expulsion from the NSDAP was informed about my joining the SS in a leading position. The result was a severe witch hunt against me. But because of my great successes and my personality I was protected and kept in office. In January 1942 I became head of the department of health engineering and in addition in a double function for the same sector I was taken over by the Reichsarzt SS und Polizei. In this function I took over the whole technical disinfection service including disinfection with highly toxic gases.
In this capacity I was visited on 8 June 1942 by the until then unknown to me SS-Sturmführer Günther from Reichssicherheitshauptamt Berlin W, Kurfürstenstraße. Günther arrived in civil clothing. He gave me the order to immediately obtain 100 kg prussic acid for a very secret Reichs order, and to drive with it by car to an undisclosed location which would be only known by the driver. Then some weeks later we drove to Prague. I understood little of the nature of the order but accepted it because here was an accidental opportunity to do something which I had longed for a long time – to be able to view inside these objects.
In addition I was recognized as such an authority and considered so competent as an expert on prussic acid, that in every case it would have been very easy for me to declare on some pretext that the prussic acid was unsuitable – because of decomposition or the like – in order to prevent its use for the real killing purpose. Together with us travelled – merely by chance – Professor Dr. med. Pfannenstiel, SS-Obersturmbannführer, full Professor of Hygienics at the University of Marburg/Lahn.
Then we drove by car to Lublin where the SS-Gruppenführer Globocnik awaited us. In the factory in Collin I had intentionally intimated that the acid was destined for the killing of human beings. A man appeared in the afternoon who was very interested in the vehicle and, after being noticed, promptly fled at a breakneck tempo. Globocnik said: “This whole affair is one of the most secret things of all in this time, one can say the most secret of all. Whoever talks about it will be shot on the spot. Only yesterday two blabbers have been shot.” Then he explained to us:
“Actually” – that was on 17 August 1942 – “we are running three facilities,” namely:
1) Belzec, at the country road and railway line Lublin – Lemberg, at the demarcation line with Russia. Maximum output 15,000 persons daily. (I saw it!).
2) Treblinka, 120 km northeast of Warsaw. Maximum output 25,000 persons daily. (I saw it!).
3) Sobibor, also in Poland, I don’t know exactly where. I am not familiar with the exact situation, I did not visit it. 20,000 persons maximum output daily.
4) Then in preparation – Majdanek near Lublin.
Belzec, Treblinka, and Majdanek I have visited personally in detail, together with the leader of these facilities, Polizeihauptmann Wirth.
Globocnik consulted me alone and said: “It is your task in particular to disinfect the extensive amounts of textiles. The whole Spinnstoffsammlung [= Collection of spun material in Germany] has only been gathered in order to explain the origin of the clothing material for the Ostarbeiter [eastern workers] etc, and to present it as an offering of the German nation. In reality the yield of our facilities is 10 – 20 times larger than that of the whole Spinnstoffsammlung.”
Thereafter I discussed with the most efficient companies the possibility of disinfecting such amounts of textiles – it consisted of an accumulated stock of approximately 40 million kgs = 60 complete freight trains – in the existing laundries and disinfection facilities. However it was absolutely impossible to place such huge orders. I used all these negotiations to make known in a skilful way or at least to intimate, the fact of the killing of the Jews. In the end it was sufficient for Globocnik that everything was sprinkled with a bit of Detenolin so that it at least smelled of disinfection. That was then carried out.
“Your other and far more important task is the changeover of our gas chambers which actually work with diesel exhaust fumes into a better and quicker system. I think especially of prussic acid. The day before yesterday the Führer and Himmler were here. On their order I have to personally take you there, I am not to issue written certificates and admittance cards to anybody!”
Then Pfannenstiel asked: “What did the Führer say?” Glob.: “Quicker, carry out the whole action quicker.” Pfannenstiel’s attendant, Ministerialrat Dr. Herbert Lindner, then asked: “Mr. Globocnik, do you think it is good and proper to bury all the corpses instead of cremating them? A generation could come after us which doesn’t understand all this!”
Then Globocnik said: “Gentlemen, if ever a generation will come after us which is so weak and soft-hearted that it doesn’t understand our task, then indeed the whole of National Socialism has been in vain. To the contrary, in my opinion one should bury bronze plates on which it is recorded that we have had the courage to carry out this great and so necessary work.”
The Führer: “Good, Globocnik, this is indeed also my opinion!” Later the alternative option was accepted. Then the corpses were cremated on large roasts, improvised from rails, with the aid of petrol and diesel oil.
The next day we drove to Belzec. A small special station had been created for this purpose at a hill, hard north of the road Lublin-Lemberg, in the left angle of the demarcation line. South of the road some houses with the inscription “Sonderkommando Belzec der Waffen-SS”. Because the actual chief of the whole killing facilities, Polizeihauptmann Wirth, was not yet there, Globocnik introduced me to SS-Hauptsturmführer Obermeyer (from Pirmasens). That afternoon he let me see only that which he simply had to show me. That day I didn’t see any corpses, just the smell of the whole region was stinking to high heaven in a hot August, and millions of flies were everywhere.
Near to the small double-track station was a large barrack, the so-called ‘cloakroom’, with a large counter for valuables. Then followed the barber’s room with approximately 100 chairs, the barber room. Then an alley in the open air, below birches, fenced in to the right and left by double barbed wire with inscriptions: ‘To the inhalation- and bath rooms!’. In front of us a sort of bath house with geraniums, then a small staircase, and then to the right and left 3 rooms each, 5 x 5 meters, 1.90 meters high, with wooden doors like garages. At the back wall, not quite visible in the dark, larger wooden ramp doors. On the roof as a “clever, little joke” the Star of David. In front of the building an inscription: Hackenholt-Foundation. More I couldn’t see that afternoon.
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.
A large loudspeaker gives the further orders: ‘Undress completely, also remove artificial limbs, spectacles etc. Handing over valuables at the counter, without receiving a voucher or a receipt. The shoes carefully bound together (because of the Spinnstoffsammlung), because on the almost 25 metre high heap nobody would have been able to find the matching shoes again. Then the women and girls to the barber who, with two, three scissor strokes is cutting off all hair and collecting it in potato sacks. “That is for special purposes in the submarines, for seals or the like!” the SS-Unterscharführer who is on duty there says to me.
Then the procession starts moving. In front a very lovely young girl; so all of them go along the alley, all naked, men, women, children, without artificial limbs. I myself stand together with Hauptmann Wirth on top of the ramp between the gas chambers. Mothers with babies at their breast, they come onward, hesitate, enter the death chambers! At the corner a strong SS man stands who, with a voice like a pastor, says to the poor people: “There is not the least chance that something will happen to you! You must only take a deep breath in the chamber, that widens the lungs; this inhalation is necessary because of the illnesses and epidemics.” On the question of what would happen to them he answered: “Yes, of course, the men have to work, building houses and roads but the women don’t need to work. Only if they wish they can help in housekeeping or in the kitchen.”
For some of these poor people this gave a little glimmer of hope, enough to go the few steps to the chambers without resistance. The majority are aware, the smell tells them of their fate! So they climb the small staircase, and then they see everything. Mothers with little children at the breast, little naked children, adults, men, women, all naked – they hesitate but they enter the death chambers, pushed forward by those behind them or driven by the leather whips of the SS.
The majority without saying a word. A Jewess of about 40 years of age, with flaming eyes, calls down vengeance on the head of the murderers for the blood which is shed here. She gets 5 or 6 slashes with the riding crop into her face from Hauptmann Wirth personally, then she also disappears into the chamber. Many people pray. I pray with them, I press myself in a corner and shout loudly to my and their God. How gladly I would have entered the chamber together with them, how gladly I would have died the same death as them. Then they would have found a uniformed SS man in their chambers – the case would have been understood and treated as an accident, one man quietly missing. Still I am not allowed to do this. First I must tell what I am experiencing here!
The chambers fill. “Pack well!” – Hauptmann Wirth has ordered. The people stand on each other’s feet. 700 – 800 on 25 square meters, in 45 cubic meters! The SS physically squeezes them together, as far as is possible.
The doors close. At the same time the others are waiting outside in the open air, naked. Someone tells me: “The same in winter!” “Yes, but they could catch their death of cold,” I say. “Yes, exactly what they are here for!” says an SS man to me in his Low German. Now I finally understand why the whole installation is called the Hackenholt-Foundation. Hackenholt is the driver of the diesel engine, a little technician, also the builder of the facility.
The people are brought to death with the diesel exhaust fumes. But the diesel doesn’t work! Hauptmann Wirth comes. One can see that he feels embarrassed that that happens just today, when I am here. That’s right, I see everything! And I wait. My stop watch has honestly registered everything. 50 minutes, 70 minutes [?] – the diesel doesn’t start! The people are waiting in their gas chambers. In vain! One can hear them crying, sobbing… Hauptmann Wirth hits the Ukrainian who is helping Unterscharführer Hackenholt 12, 13 times in the face.
After two hours and 49 minutes – the stop watch has registered everything well – the diesel starts. Until this moment the people live in these 4 chambers, four times 750 people in 4 times 45 cubic meters! Again 25 minutes pass. Right, many are dead now. One can see that through the small window in which the electric light illuminates the chambers for a moment. After 28 minutes only a few are still alive. Finally, after 32 minutes, everyone is dead!
From the other side men from the work command open the wooden doors. They have been promised – even Jews – freedom, and some one-thousandth of all valuables found, for their terrible service. Like basalt pillars the dead stand inside, pressed together in the chambers. In any event there was no space to fall down or even bend forward. Even in death one can still tell the families. They still hold hands, tensed in death, so that one can barely tear them apart in order to empty the chamber for the next batch. The corpses are thrown out, wet from sweat and urine, soiled by excrement, menstrual blood on their legs.
Children’s’ corpses fly through the air. There is no time. The riding crops of the Ukrainians lash down on the work commands. Two dozen dentists open mouths with hooks and look for gold. Gold to the left, without gold to the right. Other dentists break gold teeth and crowns out of jaws with pliers and hammers.
Among all this Hauptmann Wirth is running around. He is in his element. Some workers search the genitals and anus of the corpses for gold, diamonds, and valuables. Wirth calls me to him: “Lift this can full of gold teeth, that is only from yesterday and the day before yesterday!” In an incredibly vulgar and incorrect diction he said to me: “You won’t believe what we find in gold and diamonds every day” – he pronounced it (in German Brillanten) with two L – “and in dollars. But see for yourself!” And now he led me to a jeweller who managed all these treasures, and let me see all this. Then someone showed me a former head of the Kaufhaus des Westens in Berlin, and a violinist:
“That was a Hauptmann of the Austrian Army, knight of the Iron Cross 1st class who is now camp elder of the Jewish work command!”
The naked corpses were carried on wooden stretchers to pits only a few meters away, measuring 100 x 20 x 12 meters. After a few days the corpses welled up and a short time later they collapsed, so that one could throw a new layer of bodies upon them. Then ten centimetres of sand were spread over the pit, so that a few heads and arms still rose from it here and there. At such a place I saw Jews climbing over the corpses and working. One told me that by mistake those who arrived dead had not been stripped. Of course this has to be done later because of the Spinnstoffsammlung and valuables which otherwise they would take with them into the grave.
Neither in Belzec nor in Treblinka was any trouble taken over registering or counting the dead. The numbers were only estimates of a wagon’s content… Hauptmann Wirth asked me not to propose changes in Berlin re his facilities, and to let it remain as it is, being well established and well-tried. I supervised the burial of the prussic acid because it allegedly had decomposed.
The next day – 19 August 1942 – we drove in the car of Hauptmann Wirth to Treblinka, 120 km north northeast of Warsaw. The equipment was nearly the same as, but much larger than in Belzec. Eight gas chambers and real mountains of suitcases, textiles, and clothes. In our honour a banquet was given in old German style in the communal room. The meal was simple but everything was available in sufficient quantity. Himmler himself had ordered that the men of these commandos received as much meat, butter and other things, especially alcohol, as they wanted.
Then we drove in the car to Warsaw. I met the secretary of the Swedish legation in Berlin, Baron von Otter in the train when I tried in vain to get a bed in a sleeping car. Still under the immediate impression of the terrible events, I told him everything with the entreaty to inform his government and the Allies of all of this immediately because each day’s delay must cost the lives of further thousands and tens of thousands.
He asked me for a reference, as to which I specified Generalsuperintendent Dr. Otto Dibelius, Berlin, Brüderweg 2, Lichterfelde-West, an intimate friend of the pastor Martin Niemöller and member of the church resistance movement against Nazism. I met Mr. von Otter twice again in the Swedish legation. Meanwhile he had reported to Stockholm and informed me that this report has had considerable influence on Swedish-German relations. At the same time I tried to report to the Papal Nuncio in Berlin. There I was asked if I am a soldier. Then any further conversation with me was refused and I was asked to leave the embassy of His Holiness. While leaving the embassy, I was shadowed by a policeman on a bicycle who shortly passed me, got off, and then absolutely incomprehensibly, let me go.
Then I reported all this to hundreds of personages, among others the company lawyer of the Catholic bishop of Berlin, Dr. Winter, with the special entreaty to forward it to the Holy See. I must also add that SS-Sturmbannführer Günther from the Reichssicherheitshauptamt – I think he is the son of the Race-Günther – again demanded from me very large amounts of prussic acid in early 1944 for a very sinister purpose. On the Kurfürsten-Street in Berlin he showed me a shed in which he intended to store the prussic acid. I consequently explained him that I cannot take sole responsibility. It was approximately several wagon loads, enough to kill millions of people. He told me that he himself doesn’t know whether the poison would still be needed; when, for whom, in which way etc. But it has to be permanently kept available.
Later I often thought about the words of Goebbels. I can believe that they wanted to kill a majority of the German nation, surely including the clergy or the unpopular officers. It should happen in a kind of reading rooms or club rooms, so far as I gathered from the questions re the technical realization that Günther asked me. It could also be that he intended to kill the foreign workers or prisoners of war – I don’t know. In every case I managed to ensure that the prussic acid disappeared for some purpose of disinfection after arrival in the two concentration camps Oranienburg and Auschwitz.
That was somewhat dangerous for me but I could have easily said that the poison had already been in a dangerous condition of decomposition. I am sure that Günther tried to get the poison in order to probably kill millions of persons. It was sufficient for approximately 8 million people, 8,500 kgs. I have authorized invoices for 2,175 kgs. I always allowed the invoices to be authorised in my name, allegedly for the sake of discretion, but in truth because of being free to dispose of the poison and being able to allow it to disappear. Above all I avoided presentation of invoices again and again, delaying payment and putting off companies until later.”
As for the rest I avoided appearing in concentration camps too often because it was sometimes usual to hang people or to carry out executions in honour of the visitors.
All my statements are true, word-for-word. I am fully aware of the extraordinary tragedy of my record before God and the whole of mankind, and take it on my oath that nothing of all this that I have registered has been made-up or invented but everything is exactly the truth.