, 4th May 1945
at the moment Rottweil
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
(Westfalen), associate of the engineering works De Limon Fluhme & Co.
Düsseldorf, Industriestraße 1 - 17
. Special factory for
automatic grease systems for engines, Knorr- and Westinghouse brakes.
1919 until 1921 Halberstadt
. There in 1925
at the humanistic grammar school.
Studies: University Marburg a. Lahn
, college of technology
. Graduate engineer examination
active member of the organized Protestant Youth (CVJM-YMCA)
and the bible circles at secondary schools.
Political activity: Active follower of Brüning
. - Since June 1933
persecuted by the
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
. 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
Deutsches Institut für Ärztliche Mission
. This was possible because of my economic independence.
As an associate of the De Limon Fluhme & Co.
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 occured, and I was committed to the
because of subversive activity. Before that
I was frequently warned and interrogated by the Gestapo
, and received a ban on speaking throughout the whole
When I heard about the beginning of the killing of mentally ill persons at
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
. 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 Holland I immediately contacted the Dutch resistance movement
(graduate engineer Ubbink
[See our page "Gerstein’s report in the Netherlands"
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
Berlin W, Kurfürstenstraße
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 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.
full Professor of Hygienics at the University of Marburg/Lahn
Then we drove by car to Lublin
where the SS-Gruppenführer
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.
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:
, at the country road and railway line
Lublin - Lemberg
, at the demarcation line with Russia. Maximum output
15,000 persons daily.
, 120 km northeast of Warsaw
Maximum output 25,000 persons daily.
, also in Poland, I don't know exactly where.
20,000 persons maximum output daily.
4. - Then in preparation - Majdanek near Lublin
, and Majdanek
I have visited personally in detail, together with the leader of these facilities, Polizeihauptmann
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
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
were here. On their order I have to
personally take you there, I am not to issue written certificates and admittance cards to anybody!"
asked: "What did the Führer
: "Quicker, carry out the whole action quicker."
Dr. Herbert Lindner
, then asked: "Mr.
, 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!"
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."
: "Good, Globocnik
, this is indeed also my
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
". Because the actual chief of the whole killing facilities, Polizeihauptmann
, was not yet there, Globocnik
introduced me to SS-Hauptsturmführer Obermeyer
). 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 metres, 1.90 metres 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
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
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 metres, in 45 cubic
metres! 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
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
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
the Ukrainian who is helping Unterscharführer
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 metres! 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.
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
, 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 metres away, measuring 100 x 20 x 12 metres.
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
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...
asked me not to propose changes
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
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
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
, 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
- again demanded from me very large amounts of prussic acid in
for a very sinister purpose.
On the Kurfürsten-Street
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
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
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 authorised 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.
© ARC 2006