Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team
Key Nazi personalities in
the Camp System
The Labor &
The Labor Camps
The Auschwitz Protocol
The Vrba-Wetzler Report
[Transcribed from the original O.S.I report of the US Department of Justice & the War Refugee Board Archives]
(Photos added to enhance the text)
Shortly thereafter a so-called "sick-building" (Krankenbau) was set up. It was destined to become the much dreaded "Block 7" where at first I was chief attendant and later administrator. The chief of this "infirmary" was a Pole. Actually this building was nothing else than an assembly center for death candidates. All prisoners incapable of working were sent there.
There was no question of any medical attention or care. We had some 150 dead daily and their bodies were sent for cremation to AUSCHWITZ. At the same time the so-called "selections" were introduced.
Twice weekly, Mondays and Thursdays, the camp doctor indicated the number of prisoners who were to be gassed and then burned. These" selections" were loaded into trucks and brought to the Birch Forest. Those still alive upon arrival were gassed in a big barrack erected near the trench used for burning the bodies.
The weekly "draft" in dead from "Block 7" was about 2,000, of whom 1,200 died of "natural death" and about 800 through "selection." For those who had not been "selected" a death certificate was issued and sent to the central administration at ORANIENBURG, whereas for the "selectees" a special register was kept with the indication "S.B." ("Sonderbehandelt" -special treatment).
Until January 15, 1943, up to which time I was administrator of "Block 7" and therefore in a position to directly observe happenings, some 50,000 prisoners died of "natural death" or by "selection,"
As previously described, the prisoners were numbered consecutively so that we are able to reconstruct fairly dearly their order of succession and the fate which befell each separate convoy on arrival.
The first male Jewish transport reaching AUSCHWITZ for BIRKENAU was composed, as mentioned, of 1,320 naturalized French Jews bearing approximately the following numbers:
28,600-29,600 In April, 1942 the first convoy of Slovak Jews (our convoy).
29,600-29,700 100 men (Aryans) from various concentration camps.
29,700-32,700 3 complete convoys of Slovak Jews
32,700-33,100 400 professional criminals (Aryans) from Warsaw prisons.
33,100-35,000 1,900 Jews from Cracow.
35,000-36,000 1,000 Poles (Aryans)-political prisoners.
36,000-37,300 In May, 1942-1,300 Slovak Jews from LUBLIN MAJDANEK.
37,300-37,900 600 Poles (Aryans) from RADOM, amongst them a few Jews
37,900-38,000 100 Poles from the concentration camp of DACHAU
38,000-38,400 400 French naturalized Jews who arrived with their families.
This whole convoy consisted of about 1,600 individuals of whom approximately 200 girls and 400 men were admitted to the camp, while the remaining 1,000 persons (women, old people, children as well as men) were sent without further procedure from the railroad siding directly to the Birch Forest, and there gassed and burned.
From this moment on all Jewish convoys were dealt with in the same manner. Approximately 10 percent of the men and 5 percent of the women were allotted to the camps and the remaining members were immediately gassed.
This process of extermination had already been applied earlier to the Polish Jews. During long months, without interruption, trucks brought thousands of Jews from the various "ghettos" direct to the pit in the "Birkenwald."
38,400 - 39,200 800 naturalized French Jews, the remainder of the convoy was-as previously described, gassed.
39,200 - 40,000 800 Poles (Aryans), political prisoners. 150 Slovak Jews with their families.
40,000 - 40.150 Slovak Jews with their families. Outside of a group of 50 girls sent to the women's camp, all other members were gassed in the Birch forest. Among the 150 men who came to the camp, there was a certain "Zucker", and Sonneschein, Viliam, both from eastern Slovakia.
40,150 - 43,800 Approximately 4,000 French naturalized Jews, almost all were intellectuals; 1,000 women were
directed to the women's camp, while the balance of about 3,000 persons were gassed in the usual manner.
200 Slovak Jews. The convoy consisted of 1,000 persons. A number of women were sent to the women's camp, the rest gassed in the Birch Wood. Among the prisoners sent to camp were: Jozef Zelmanovic -Snina, Adolf Kahan -Bratislava, Walter Reichmann -Sucany, AND Esther Kahan from Bratislava.
320 Jews from Slovakia. About 70 girls were transferred to the women's camp, the remainder, some 650 people, gassed in the Birch Wood. This convoy included about 80 people who had been handed over by the Hungarian police to the camp of SERED.
Others from this convoy were: Dr. Zoltan Mandel (since deceased)-Holz (Christian name unknown), butcher from Piestany, Miklos Engel, from Zilnia and Chaim Katz from Snina, (his wife and 6 children were gassed).
15,000 naturalized French, Belgian and Dutch Jews. This figure certainly represents less than 10 percent of the total convoy. This was between July 1 and September 15, 7942. Large family convoys arrived from various European countries and were at once directed to the Birch Wood.
The special squad ("Sonderkommando") employed for gassing and burning worked in day and night shifts. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were gassed during this period.
200 Slovak Jews. Out of this transport about 100 women were admitted to the camp, the rest of them gassed and burned. Among the newly arrived were: Ludwig Katz, Zilina-Avri Burger, Bratislava-Poprad (wife dead)Mikulas Steiner, Povazska Bystrica-Juraj Fried, Trencin-Buchwald-Josef Rosenwasser, Eastern Slovakia-Julius Neuman, Bardejov-Sandor Wertheimer, Vrbove-Misi Wertheimer, Vrbove -Bela Blau, Zilina.
. Naturalized French, Belgian, and Dutch Jews. Not more than 1,000 women were "selected" and sent to the camp. The others, at the lowest estimate 30,000, were gassed.
Naturalized French, Belgian, and Dutch Jews. The prisoners brought to the camp hardly represent 10 percent of the total transport. A conservative estimate would be that approximately 65,000 to 70,000 persons were gassed.
On December 17, 1942, the 200 young Slovak Jews, the so-called "special squad" employed in gassing and burning the condemned, were in turn executed at BIRKENAU. They were executed for having planned to mutiny and escape. A Jew betrayed their preparations. This frightful job had to be taken over by a group of 200 Polish Jews who had just arrived at camp from MAKOW.
Once I was an eyewitness when a young Polish Jew named Jossel demonstrated "scientific" murder on a Jew in the presence of an SS guard. He used no weapon, merely his bare hands, to kill his victim.
No. 80,000 marks the beginning of the systematic extermination of the Polish ghettos.
Approximately 5,000 Jews from various ghettos in MLJAWA-MAKOW-ZICHENOWLOMZA-GRODNO-BIALYSTOK. For fully 30 days truck-convoys arrived without interruption. Only 5,000 persons were sent to the concentration camp; all the others were gassed at once. The "special squad" worked in two shifts, 24 hours daily and was scarcely able to cope with the gassing and burning.
Without exaggerating it may be said that out of these convoys some 80,000 to 90,000 received "special treatment." These transports also brought in a considerable amount 01 money, valuables, and precious stones.
They bore the designations "CU," "CR" and "R" (The meaning of these signs is unknown to us). These markings were also stamped on their luggage. Out of these 6,000 persons only 600 men and 300 women were admitted to the camp. The remainder were gassed.
At the end of February, 1943 a new modern crematorium and gassing plant was inaugurated at BIRKENAU. The gassing and burning of the bodies in the Birch Forest was discontinued, the whole job being taken over by the four specially built crematoria.
The large ditch was filled in, the ground leveled, and the ashes used as before for fertilizer at the farm labor camp of HERMENSE, so that today it is almost impossible to find trace of the dreadful mass murder which took place here.
From there a door and a few steps lead down into the very long and narrow gas chamber. The walls of this chamber are also camouflaged with simulated entries to shower rooms in order to mislead the victims.
The unfortunate victims are brought into hall where they are told to undress. To complete the fiction that they are going to bathe, each person receives a towel and a small piece of soap issued by two men clad in whites coats. They are then crowded into the gas chamber in such numbers there is, of course, only standing room.
To compress this crowd into the narrow space, shots are often fired to induce those already at the far end to huddle still closer together. When everybody is inside, the heavy doors are closed. Then there is a short pause, presumably to allow the room temperature to rise to a certain level, after which 55 men with gas masks climb on the roof, open the traps, and shake down a preparation in powder form out of tin cans labeled "CYCLONE" "For use against vermin," which is manufactured by a Hamburg concern.
It is presumed that this is a "CYANIDE" mixture of some sort which turns into gas at a certain temperature. After three minutes everyone in the chamber is dead. No one is known to have survived this ordeal, although it was not uncommon to discover signs of life after the primitive measures employed in the Birch Wood.
The chamber is then opened, aired, and the "special squad" carts the bodies on flat trucks to the furnace rooms where the burning takes place. Crematoria III and IV work on nearly the same principle, but their capacity is only half as large. Thus the total capacity of the four cremating and gassing plants at BIRKENAU amount's to about 6,000 daily.
On principle only Jews are gassed; Aryans very seldom, as they are usually given "special treatment" by shooting. Before the crematoria were put into service, the shooting took place in the Birch Wood and the bodies were burned in the long trench; later, however, executions took place in the large hall of one of the crematoria which has been provided with a special installation for this purpose.
Prominent guests from BERLIN were present at the inauguration of the first crematorium in March, 1943. The "program" consisted of the gassing and burning of 8,000 Cracow Jews. The' guests, both officers and civilians, were extremely satisfied with the results and the special peephole fitted into the door of the gas chamber was in constant use. They were Lavish in their praise of this newly erected installation.
At the beginning of March, 1943, 45,000 Jews arrived form Salonika. 10,000 of them came to the camp, including a small percentage of women; some 30,000 however went straight to the cremating facility. Of the 10,000 nearly all died a short time later from a contagious illness resembling malaria. They also died of Typhus due to the general conditions prevailing in the camp.
Malaria among the Jews and typhus took such toll among the prisoners in general that the "selections" were temporarily suspended. The contaminated Greek Jews were ordered to present themselves and in spite of our repeated warnings many of them did. They were all killed by intra-cardial phenol injections administered by a lance-corporal of the medical corps.
Out of the 10,000 Greek Jews, some 1,000 men remained alive and were later sent, together with 500 other Jews, to do fortification work in Warsaw. A few weeks later several hundred came back in a pitiful state and were immediately gassed. The remainder presumably died in Warsaw.
Four hundred Greek Jews suffering from malaria were sent for "further treatment" to LUBLIN after the phenol injections had been stopped, and it appears that they actually arrived. Their fate is not known to us, but it can be taken for granted that out of the original number of 10,000 Jews not one eventually remained in the camp.
Simultaneously with the stopping of the "selections" the murdering of prisoners was forbidden. Prominent murderers such as: the Reich German professional criminals Alexander Neumann, Zimmer, Albert Haemmerle, Rudi Osteringer, Rudi Bechert, and the political prisoners Alfred Kien and AloIs Stahler, were punished for repeated murder and had to make written declarations l that they had killed so and so many prisoners.
At the beginning of 1943 the political section of AUSCHWITZ, received 500,000 discharge certificates and we thought with ill concealed joy, that at least a few of us would be liberated. But the forms were simply filled out with the names of those gassed and filed away in the archives.
1,000 Poles (Aryans) from the PAWlAK prison in Warsaw.
3,000 Greek Jews, part of whom were sent to replace their comrades in Warsaw. The remainder quickly died off.
1,000 Poles (Aryans) from RADOM and TARNOW.
2,000 from mixed Aryan convoys.
In the meantime, ceaseless convoys of Polish and a few French and Belgian Jews arrived and, without exception, were dispatched to the gas chambers. Among them was a transport of 1,000 Polish Jews from MAJDANEK which included three Slovaks, one of whom was a certain Spira from Stropkow or Vranov.
The flow of convoys abruptly ceased at the end of July, 1943 and there was a short breathing space. The crematoria were thoroughly cleaned, the installations repaired and prepared for further use. On August 3 the killing machine again went into operation. The first convoys consisted of Jews from BENZBURG and SOSNOWITZ and others followed during the whole month of August.
Only 4,000 men and a very small number of women were brought to the camp. Over 35,000 were gassed. Of the aforementioned 4,000 men, many died as a result of bad treatment, hunger or illness; some were even murdered.
The responsibility for these tragedies lies with the criminal TYN (a Reich German) from the concentration camp of SACHSENHAUSEN and the Polish political prisoner No. 8516, Mieczislav KATERZINSKI, from Warsaw.
The "selections" were introduced again and this time to a murderous extent, especially in the women's camp. The camp doctor, an SS "Hauptsturmfurhrer" and the son or nephew of the police president of Berlin (we forget his name) outdid all the others in brutality. The selection system has been continued ever since, until our escape.
At the end of August 1,000 Poles came from the PAWIAK prison and 80 Jews from Greece.
3,000 men from various Aryan Transports.
At the beginning of September, 1943 3,000 Jews arrived from Polish working camps and Russian prisoners of war.
During the week following September 7, 1943 family transports of Jews arrived from THERESIENSTADT. They enjoyed quite an exceptional status which was incomprehensible to us. The families were not separated and not a single one of them received the customary and "normal" gas treatment. Their heads were not even shaven, they were able to keep their luggage, and were lodged in a separate section of the camp, men, women and children together.
The men were not forced to work and a school was even set up for the children under the direction of Fredy HIRSCH (Makabi, Prague). They were allowed to correspond freely. The worst they had to undergo was mistreatment at the hands of their" camp eldest," a certain professional criminal by the name of Arno BOHM, prisoner NO.8. Our astonishment increased when we learned of the official indication given to this special treatment: "SB" -transport of Czech Jews with six months' quarantine.
We very well knew what "SB" meant ("Sonderbehandlung"), but could not understand the long period of six months' quarantine and the generally clement treatment this group received. The longest quarantine period we had witnessed so far was only three weeks. Towards the end of the six months period, however, we became convinced that the fate of these Jews would be the same as that of most of the others, -the gas chamber.
We tried to get in touch with the leader of the group and explain their lot and what they had to expect. Some of them declared (especially Fredy HIRSCH who seemed to enjoy the full-confidence of his companions) that if our fears took shape they would organize resistance.
Thus some of them hoped to instigate a general revolt in the camp. On March 6, 1944 we heard that the crematoria were being prepared to receive the Czech Jews.
I hastened to inform Fredy HIRSCH and begged him to take immediate actions as they had nothing to lose. He replied that he recognized his duty. Before nightfall I again crept over to the Czech camp where I learned that Fredy HIRSCH was dying; he had poisoned himself with luminol.
The next day, March 7, 1944, he was taken, unconscious, along with his 3,791 comrades who had arrived at BIRKENAU on September 7, 1943 on trucks, to the crematoria and gassed. The young people went to their death singing, but to our great disappointment nobody revolted. Some 500 elderly people had died during quarantine. Of all these Jews only 11 twins were left alive. They are being subjected to various medical tests at AUSCHWITZ, and when we left BIRKENAU they were still alive.
Among the gassed was Rozsi FURST, from SERED. A week before the gassing, that is to say on March I, 1944, everyone in the Czech group in the camp had been asked to inform his relatives about his well-being. The letters had to be dated March 23 to 25, 1944 and they were requested to ask for food parcels.
1,000 Polish Aryans from Pawiak Prison.
During October and November, 1943,4,000 persons from various prisons and smaller transports of Jews from BENZBURG and vicinity, who had been driven out of their hiding places; also a group of Russians under protective custody from the MINSK and VITEBESK regions. Some more Russian prisoners of war arrived and, as stated, they as usual received numbers between 1 and 12,000.
In December, 1943, 5,000 men originating from Dutch, French, Belgian transports and for the first time, Italian Jews from FIUME, TRIESTE and ROME. Of these at least 30,000 were immediately gassed. The mortality among these Jews was very high and, in addition, the "selection" system was still decimating all ranks. The bestiality of the whole procedure reached its culminating point between January 10 and 24, 1944 when even young and healthy persons irrespective of profession or working classification-with the exception of doctors-were ruthlessly "selected."
Every single prisoner was called up, a strict control was established to see that all were present, and the "selection" proceeded under the supervision of the same camp doctor (son or nephew of the Police President of Berlin) and of the Commandant of BIRKENAU, SS "Untersturmfurhrer" SCHWARZHUBER. The "infirmary" had in the meantime been transferred from "Block 7" to a separate section of the camp where conditions had become quite bearable. Its inmates, nevertheless, were gassed to the last man. Apart from this group this general action cost some 2,500 men and over 6,000 women their lives.
On December 20, 1943 a further group of 3,000 Jews arrived from THERESIENSTADT. The convoy was listed under the same category as the one which had reached the camp on September 7, i.e., "SB"-transport, Czech Jews with six months' quarantine. On their arrival, men, women and children all joined the September group. They enjoyed the same privileges as their predecessors. Twenty-four hours before the gassing of the first group took place, the latest arrivals were separated from the rest and placed in another part of the camp where they still are at present. Their quarantine ends on June 20, 1944.
1,000 people in small groups, Jews, Poles, and some Russians and a small number of Yugoslavs.
1,000 Poles, Russians and some more Yugoslavs.
At the end of February and beginning of March, 3,000 Jews from Holland, Belgium, and for the first time long-established French Jews (not naturalized) from VICHY, in France. The greater part of this transport was gassed immediately upon arrival.
Small groups of BENZBURGER and SOSNOWITZER Jews, who had been dragged from hiding, arrived in the middle of March. One of them told me that many Polish Jews were crossing over to Slovakia and from there to Hungary and that the Slovak Jews helped them on their way through.
After the gassing of the THERESIENSTADT transport there were no further arrivals until March 15, 1944. The effective strength of the camp rapidly diminished and men of later incoming transports, especially Dutch Jews, were directed to the camp. When we left on April 7, 1944 we heard that large convoys of Greek Jews were expected.
Continued in [Part III]
...back to [Part I]
War Refugee Board at the F.D. Roosevelt Library, New York, NY
Holocaust Historical Society
Copyright: Carmelo A. Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2008