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Re: D. Ventilation System (27-29)

One of the older arguments of Holocaust deniers to challenge the historical record concerning Auschwitz concerns the ventilation of the underground gas chambers of crematoria 2 and 3. The issue is simple: if there were no means to extract the poisonous gas from the chamber after a gassing, it would be very difficult to remove the bodies. And if it took a long time for the room to be aired, the frequency of gassings would be reduced to such a low level that the gas chamber could never have functioned on a daily basis. Faurisson developed this argument in the late 1970s. In a paper entitled "The Mechanics of Gassing," presented at the first conference sponsored by the Institute for Historical Review in 1979, Faurisson argued that for the gassing to have occurred as eyewitnesses such as Kommandant H&oumlss testified, the gas chambers ought to have been equipped with a fan "with magical powers."

It becomes, therefore, apparent that in the absence of a magical fan capable of instantly expelling a gas that is "difficult to ventilate, since it adheres strongly to surfaces," the "human slaughterhouse" called a "gas chamber" would have been inaccessible for nearly a full day. Its walls, floors, ceiling would have retained portions of a gas which was highly poisonous to man.  20

Thus, assuming an extremely toxic environment with cyanide dripping off the walls, the presence of a very powerful ventilation system became a sine qua non for the underground gas chambers of crematoria 2 and 3 to have functioned.

Faurisson's argument resurfaced in the Leuchter Report. "There were no exhaust systems to vent the gas after usage," Leuchter observed. 21 In my analysis of the Leuchter Report, I demonstrated that Leuchter had been wrong, and that there had been a ventilation system (p. 511 expert report).

Mr. Justice Gray accepted this. In his Judgment he wrote:

7.62 The drawings further provide for the ventilation of the supposed gas chamber in crematorium 2. Van Pelt infers that the purpose of the system for extracting air was to extract poisonous air and so speed up the removal of the corpses to the incinerators.

It is important to note that Mr. Justice Gray's representation of my own conclusions regarding the ventilation system of morgue 1 is not exactly correct. In my expert report I discuss the ventilation system in two places. On p. 363 I discuss the original planning of the building.

Bischoff had also charged Prüfer to design a ventilation system for the incineration room and the two morgues. The furnace room, the dissection rooms and the larger of the two corpse cellars were to receive a system that only extracted the hot, foul air, while the smaller of the mortuaries was also to receive a system to bring in fresh air from the outside.

It is important to note here that there is no indication that either Bischoff or Prüfer envisioned a homicidal use for the smaller morgue in the new crematorium. But the presence of the powerful ventilation system charged the design from its inception with a genocidal potentiality which would only require small modifications in the design to be actualized. Indeed: it was the presence of such a ventilation system in the crematorium of the main camp which, seven weeks earlier, had inspired Lagerführer Fritsch to use the mortuary of the crematorium as an experimental gas chamber.

In other words, there seems to be no disagreement between Rudolf and myself on the issue that, at least originally, morgue 1 was not intended to be a homicidal gas chamber.

In my analysis of the Leuchter Report, I came back to the issue of ventilation (van Pelt, Expert Report, pp. 509ff.) Leuchter claimed on the basis of assertions made by Faurisson that the basement of crematoria 2 and 3 were not ventilated, and used that as a major argument why morgue 1 in those buildings could not have been used as a gas chamber. Since 1988 Holocaust deniers have been forced to retreat from the original position taken by Faurisson and Leuchter that the gas chambers of crematoria 2 and 3 were in Faurisson's words "physically inconceivable" because of their lack of a ventilation system to a new position that acknowledges that a ventilation system did exist, but that it was not sufficiently powerful to extract the cyanide from the gas chamber in the time alleged by the eyewitnesses. He substantiates this argument by stating that the ventilation system of morgue 1 was normal for a morgue of that size, claiming that "the German war-time law for underground morgues" requires five to ten air exchanges per hour. (It is perhaps useful to note that, to prove this point, Rudolf does not refer to a war-time decree, but to a publication by a certain W. Heepke that dates from 1905. The reference to Heepke's book, which is not a war-time law, but a book discussing design guidelines for the construction of crematoria published 35 years before the war. In other words, Rudolf misrepresented the evidence.)

For a discussion of the substance of Rudolf's attempt to show that the ventilation system could not have extracted the hydrogen cyanide in the period alleged by the eyewitnesses, I defer to Richard Green's report. He will argue, on the basis of calculations using data about the power of the ventilation system claimed by Rudolf (9.94 air exchanges per hour) and a standard equation used by American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, that even if the HCN concentration would have been as high as Rudolf's inflated assumption of 10,000 ppm (parts per million), the concentration of HCN within the gas chambers of crematoria 2 and 3 would have been reduced to acceptable safety standards after 40 minutes of ventilation.

As a historian I happily leave the calculations concerning air-extraction capacity, hydrogen cyanide concentration and related matters to the scientist. But considering those parts of the historical evidence I am able to judge, I must note that Rudolf's argument that morgue 1 could not have been a gas chamber ignores some important pieces of non-intentional evidence that seem to indicate that the eyewitnesses did not lie when they stated after the war that in this space many people were killed with gas. First of all there is the letter Bischoff wrote on March 31, 1943, in which he ordered for morgue 1 of crematorium 3 a gas-tight door that 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." As we have seen, this door was "very urgent." 22 First of all one wonders, of course, why an ordinary morgue with what Rudolf claims is ordinary ventilation capacity would have been equipped with a gas-tight door. And then one wonders why Bischoff so specifically specified "double" 8 mm glass with metal protection to be inserted in the door.

Then there is another element that does not fit the assumption that morgue was an ordinary corpse cellar. In the inventory that was included as an appendix to the transfer document of crematorium 2, dated March 31, 1943, one finds for morgue 1 listed four instances of an instrument identified as a Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtung, which translates as a wire mesh introduction device. That same inventory also lists four Holzblenden, or wooden covers. I do not know what possible "ordinary mortuary use" these wire mesh introduction devices could have served, and Rudolf ignores them. It seems, however, very likely that these Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtungen are identical to the four wire mesh gas columns which Henryk Tauber and Michael Kula described in detail in their 1945 affidavits, and which Yehuda Bacon drew in 1945 and David Olere in early 1946. According to eyewitness evidence which seems confirmed by aerial photos taken in 1944, these four gas columns were connected to four openings in the roof of the gas chamber, and were with removable covers - the four Holzblenden listed in the inventory. It is in this context important to note that Rudolf does not mention these Drahtnetzeinschiebvorrichtungen anywhere in his affidavit, but he must have known about them because the inventory of crematorium 2 that mentions them was published on the same page of Pressac's book on Auschwitz that contains an inventory of crematorium 3 that lists the presence of the very 14 showers that were to Rudolf of such great evidentiary significance in section C of his affidavit (pp. 18-27).

Finally there is one piece of evidence that suggests that morgue 1 was not a morgue: a letter written by Bischoff on March 6, 1943, in which he discusses the possibility to preheat that same morgue. This he discusses in section E.


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