Zentralsauna, Auschwitz Birkenau

Shortly after plans were developed to set up a large PoW camp west of Auschwitz near the village of Brzezinka (Birkenau), these plans included a large facility containing inmate showers and disinfestation devices for inmate clothes. A map showing an early stage of the camp from late March 1942 shows an outline of this building where it was eventually erected.

A detailed project description for the Birkenau Camp dated 28 October 1942 and titled “Construction Project: Auschwitz Prisoner-of-War Camp (Implementation of Special Treatment)” lists this building on page 5 as a

“disinfestation facility

  1. for special treatment. […]
  2. for the guard troops.”

This was the only building that was associated with “special treatment” in that project description. (See the illustration in the entry on “Special Treatment.”). Since disinfestation for guard troops was the second purpose of that facility, “for special treatment” undoubtedly referred to inmates. At that time, Birkenau was repurposed from a PoW camp to serve the “Implementation of Special Treatment” instead. Hence, the camp served as a central hub either for the forced-labor deployment of deported Jews, or for their deportation further east.

Zentralsauna, Auschwitz-Birkenau
Auschwitz-Birkenau, Building 32, the camp’s inmate shower and disinfestation facility, the so-called Zentralsauna (1998).

According to the orthodox narrative, the term “special treatment” was a euphemism for the wholesale slaughter of Jews in the crematoria’s gas chambers. However, the project description entry for the Birkenau crematoria does not contain the term “special treatment” or anything similar, unlike the disinfestation facility in the very next line. This document shows, therefore, that no association between this term and the crematoria existed. In reality, this term was exclusively associated with the life-saving shower and fumigation facility.

Auschwitz Birkenau, Zentralsauna, autoclaves
Two hot-air disinfestation autoclaves inside the Zentralsauna (1998).

This building later received the identification number BW 32, and was nicknamed “Zentralsauna,” although it did not contain any sauna. It was equipped with large undressing and dressing halls, a room with 50 warm-water showers, and four large hot-air disinfestation autoclaves. The two coke furnaces and boiler system used to generate the hot air were built underground. Since the groundwater level in Birkenau stood close to the surface, constructing this facility’s basement required that the groundwater seeping in was continually pumped off. Static calculations for this building only began in March 1943, and it became operational only by the end of 1943, being officially handed over to the camp administration on 22 January 1944.

From the fall of 1942 onward, the Birkenau Camp had two other large inmate shower and disinfestation facilities (BW 5a and BW 5b). These even had a sauna each, which is probably where the nickname of the new planned building came from. However, these buildings had only two badly designed large Zyklon-B fumigation rooms, each called a “gas chamber” in the blueprints. They operated rather inefficiently and probably also ineffectively. One of them was later remodelled to contain several smaller hot-air disinfestation chambers rather than one large Zyklon-B room. Notably, no one has ever claimed that inmates were killed in these fumigation “gas chambers.”

Delays in the Zentralsauna’s construction were one reason why hygienic conditions in the Birkenau Camp improved only slowly in 1943. At the end of 1943, the Zentralsauna became operational: shortly thereafter, the first microwave disinfestation unit was deployed at Auschwitz, and in spring 1944, the first deliveries of DDT (German name: Lauseto) arrived at Auschwitz, finally improving the camp’s hygienic and sanitary conditions to a level where mortality finally dropped to low levels. This, unfortunately, occurred near the end of the war, when the national situation became catastrophic, and therefore camp conditions once again declined.

(For details, see documents quoted in Mattogno 2023, pp. 90f., 177f., 240, 258, 263f., 341, 349, 354, 358, 387.)

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