First Gassing, at Auschwitz

Rumors about the “first gassing” at the Auschwitz Main Camp originated in propaganda spread by inmate resistance groups there in October of 1941. This propaganda claimed that the Germans were testing toxic gases on Russian PoWs in preparation for chemical warfare at the Eastern front. Similar claims of the preparation of weapons of mass destruction have been used by war propagandists ever since to incite their people to support a war, or to justify escalations in an ongoing war.

Auschwitz Main Camp, Block11, basement windows
Auschwitz Main Camp, Block 11, wall facing south-southwest, close-up of concrete screens around the window wells of the basement detention cells presumably used for the “first gassing.”

In later reports of resistance groups, as disinfestation at Auschwitz using Zyklon B became commonly known, the theme gradually shifted by mentioning this pesticide as the killing agent, and by placing the event in the basement of Block 11 of the Auschwitz Main Camp. The normal removal of corpses of registered detainees who had died in the camp for various reasons, from the morgue of Block 28 to the camp’s crematorium was then used to progressively enrich the story.

After the war, in preparation for the two Polish show trials – one against former camp commandant Rudolf Höss and the other against several other leading members of the former camp staff – Polish Investigating Judge Jan Sehn set out to ”historicize” the utterly contradictory accounts of a plethora of witnesses ready to accuse the Germans of anything. Among the widely varying data claimed by the witnesses, Sehn decided ex cathedra which ones were “correct”: the number and types of victims as well as the various phases of the gassing; but he did not decide on the event’s date. That was done only in 1959 by the Auschwitz Museum’s lead historian Danuta Czech by way of aggres­sively manipulating the sources. She resurrected and augmented Jan Sehn’s already cherry-picked tale, and drew from a hodgepodge of contradictory testimonies a purely fictitious “convergence of proof,” and attributed to it a precise but completely invented date.

According to this narrative, the very first gassing concerned 250 sick Polish inmates and 500 Soviet PoWs. The event started on 3 September 1941, took place in the basement of Block 11 of the Auschwitz Main Camp, and supposedly lasted 15 hours, followed by another two days of ventilation and removal of the corpses.

However, if we look at some of the claims made by the various witnesses, a completely different picture emerges. According to this, depending on the witness, the notorious event occurred either

  • in the spring of 1941
  • immediately after the invasion of Russia (late June/early July 1941)
  • or in August 1941
  • or on August 14, 1941
  • or on August 15, 1941
  • or on September 3-5, 1941
  • or on September 5-6, 1941
  • or on September 5-8, 1941
  • or on September 13, 1941
  • or in the fall of 1941
  • or in September or (early) October
  • or on October 9, 1941
  • or during October/November 1941
  • or in November 1941
  • or in winter of 1941(/1942)
  • or at the turn of 1941 to 1942
  • or in early 1942
  • in March 1942
  • or in December of 1942.

The location was either

  • the old crematorium
  • or one room…
  • or a gas chamber looking like a bathroom
  • or all rooms…
  • or even all rooms plus the hallway of the basement of Block 11
  • or somewhere at Birkenau.

The victims were either

  • Soviet PoWs
  • or partisans
  • or political commissars
  • or Poles
  • or Soviet PoWs and sick Polish detainees
  • or Soviet PoWs and Polish officers

There were either

  • 100, or 200, or 300, or 350, or 470, or 500, or 600, or 696, or 700, or 800, or 850, or 850-900, or 880, or 900, or 980, or 1,000, or more than 1,000, or 1,400, or 1,663, or 2,000 victims.

The poison gas was administered either by

  • SS Hauptscharführer Palitzsch (Rapportführer)
  • or by Tom Mix (an invented person)
  • or by “the strangler” (another invented person)
  • or by SS Unterscharführer Breitwieser, head of the inmate clothing department.

either into the corridor or into the cells of the basement of Block 11, a total of three cans or perhaps two cans into each cell either

  • through the door
  • or through a ventilation flap
  • or through openings above the doors to the cells.

The victims either died immediately, or perhaps stayed alive for 15 hours. The corpses were removed either

  • the following day
  • or the following night
  • or one to two days later
  • or three days later
  • or on the 4th day
  • or after 4 or 5 days
  • or the 6th day.

The work took either

  • a whole day
  • or a whole night
  • or two nights
  • or three nights.

The bodies of the victims were either

  • cremated
  • or buried in mass graves (in Birkenau)
  • or partly cremated and partly buried.

In fact, however, this alleged event left no trace in any extant documents. Its implementation is full of technical absurdities, contradicting all well-known and generally practiced safety procedures for fumigations using Zyklon B. The majority of the alleged victims – Soviet PoWs – arrived at Auschwitz only starting in late October 1941; a Gestapo commission arrived in November and started interviewing the inmates, sifting out those who were fanatical communists – some 300 – and marked them for execution. Yet those were not gassed, but rather executed by shooting in smaller groups over time. And there is also no trace of sick Polish inmates murdered in masses – they are all accounted for.

One mainstay of the orthodox narrative about this defining moment in the history of the Auschwitz Camp are the various statements made by Rudolf Höss after the war (see his entry). However, these are themselves riddled with a plethora of absurdities, contradictions and chronological as well as technical impossibilities, rendering them historically worthless. They serve only as an instructive example of what several days of torture followed by months of abuse can do to a man.

(For details on the First Gassing, see Mattogno 2022f.)

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