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Auschwitz Gas Vans Testimonies

Last Update 14 January 2006

Resistance report from Auschwitz, sent by Stanislaw Klodzinski ("Staklo") to Teresa Lasocka-Estreicher ("K. Tell") and Edward Halon ("Boruta") in September of 1944 (Camp Resistance Files, vol. 2. p. 161):
"Police wagon no. 71462 - in other words a mobile gas chamber in Auschwitz. A unit of the so-called "Polizei-Sonderkommando", which previously worked in Lithuania, is stationed in the vicinity of the camp. This criminal commando used a car that was sealed, with a grate and hermetically closed doors, which served as mobile gas chambers (sic) to transport prisoners. To the end of the exhaust pipe there is attached the end of a metal hose, which when "needed" leads the wagon's exhaust gases into the wagon's interior through an appropriate opening. The inside of the wagon is a cabin made airtight by a tin lining, 4 metres long and 2.5 metres wide. The heavy doors lack any openings and have no latch on the inside. To the right of the doors is an opening covered by a heavy grating which can be opened from the outside and serves to air the wagon out after an execution. Description of the wagon: model Saurex (sic), in the shape of a long box, painted greenish-yellow. Registration no. Pol 71462, driver: Arndt, Oberwachtmeister of the Polizei-Sonderkommando. He should by the way be sentenced to death*. This wagon was used among other things to execute civilians convicted by the so-called Polizei-Sondergericht. The driver on that occasion left the van standing with the throttle open and, while walking around, joked: 'meanwhile, the little birds are choking in there.' Send to. (sic)
Cordial greetings - Staklo."
* At this time the camp resistance was composing a list of criminals from Auschwitz to be broadcasted by the BBC.

Testimony of Stanislaw Dubiel (Höß Trial, vol. 25, p. 82):
"It was Sturmbannführer Henschel who at first seemed to us to have a very good character. And in a few days, he found another method – gassing in a car. The car goes to Birkenau, by the time it gets there everyone is dead. The driver explained how it works, that the exhaust pipe goes straight into the car. By the time the driver gets to where he’s going, they’re already dead. That was the behaviour of this supposedly good man."

Testimony of Jan Dziopek (Höß Trial, vol. 8, p. 109):
"They were carried out at Block 11 until October 1944, after that the condemned were killed only at Birkenau, where they were taken from our place* in a prison van. That type of van was very tightly sealed and had apparatus for gassing the people inside. The gassing apparatus was built in the automobile workshops of the Fahrbereitschafts–Kommando."
* I.e. Auschwitz main camp.

Testimony of Edward Wrona (Höß Trial, vol. 26, p. 8.):
"I think none of the witnesses has emphasized that gas vans were used at Auschwitz. I assume that the accused Höß knew about it, because he went every day to look at his beautiful limousine in the automobile workshops and saw the three vans in which people were murdered standing there. Working at the water pumping station in Block 18, I leaned my head out and observed how girls and men were packed into these vans and the executions were carried out. I witnessed how one night a German general was executed, supposedly just for refusing to carry out an order in wartime. That time around 50 limousines drove up with a huge retinue of generals and the camp command, and the execution* was carried out ceremoniously, lighting up the wall of death and the square behind Block 11 with a searchlight."
* Possibly this refers to different, "regular" execution.

Testimony of Kazimierz Grabowski (Höß Trial, vol. 26, p. 32, 33):
"Presiding judge: Was there* a truck there designated in advance for gassing people?
Witness: Once one van that was especially encased in wood came in for repairs, I didn’t know what kind of van it was. German vehicles ran on methanol. There it was fitted with an exhaust pipe, round with small holes, when the prisoners were inside the van, the gas got in that way. After 15 minutes a person was ready. Before it even reached the crematorium, there were only corpses in the van. I ran across only one vehicle like that, on which I worked.
Pres: Was the van constantly in use?
Witness: Constantly, unless it was damaged, then it went in to be fixed.
Pres: Was this van used inside the camp, or outside?
Witness: That I don’t know.
* I.e. in the camp automobile repair workshops.

Testimony of Jozef Sliwa (APMAB, Collection "Statements", vol. 3, p. 336, 337):
"When a larger number of sick people had accumulated*, they were taken in vans to Auschwitz. I saw the vans – gas chambers, into which transports of Muselmans were loaded. I went inside and saw the gassing apparatus, i.e. pipes to let the exhaust gases in."
* In the Golleschau sub-camp.

Testimony of Zbigniew Kazmierczyk (APMAB, Collection "Statements", vol. 45, p. 4):
"Commissions often came from Auschwitz, which carried out selections among sick prisoners in the hospital. The selected prisoners were taken away to Auschwitz by vehicles, already gassing them on the way. I know from what friends told me that they were dark green, reinforced, sealed when closed, into which exhaust gas was let in."

Testimony of Wladyslaw de Rosenberg Grohs, police prisoner from Block 11 (APMAB. Collection "Statements", vol. 73, p. 38):
"Yes, well out of my hall sometimes only two persons out of 100 were transferred as prisoners to one of the blocks in the camp, the rest were loaded into trucks. In any case, at that time executions were not carried out in the courtyard of Block 11. We were convinced that the prisoners sentenced to death by the police Special Court were suffocated with exhaust products in the boxes of vans – before they got as far as the crematoria."

Testimony of Artur Meyer (APMAB, Collection "Statements", vol. 93, p. 23, 23a):
"Moreover, in Auschwitz there was a special apparatus. It was a car - gas chamber. In this van up to 14 people were loaded, it was hermetically sealed and until the van arrived at Birkenau, its passengers were gassed to death."

Testimony of George Goiny-Grabowski (APMAB, Collection "Statements", vol. 61, p. 167):
"As the Russian front approached to Auschwitz, a police Einsatzkommando arrived, whose members had green cuffs on the uniform. Among their vehicles were two gas vans, at which I had an opportunity to have a detailed look. The exhaust gases could be led into the car box filled with doomed persons... The gas vans had an image showing a human head which kept its nose closed with one hand."

Testimony of Kazimierz Czyzewski (Höß Trial, vol. 35, p. 163):
"Hitlerite civilian special courts which arrived every 14 days and tried hundreds of civilians in this Block 11. After the verdict, these people were driven into a hermetically proofed yellow van. Up to 50 people fit into it - the SS driver drove them to the crematorium (the prisoners did not know where they were brought), and in this van the people were gassed, the corpses were thrown out and cremated."

The statements were kindly supplied by Dr. Piotr Setkiewicz, Head of the Archives at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum.
Polish statements were translated by Dr. Steve Paulsson.

© ARC 2006