Gas Chamber at Monowitz?
At the Nuremberg International Military
Tribunal, the SS was indicted as a criminal organization. The
star witness for the defense, on the charges against the SS,
was Sturmbannführer Georg Konrad Morgen,
a judge who was authorized by Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler
to investigate the Nazi concentration camps for corruption and
unauthorized murder. Dr. Morgen found plenty of corruption at
Auschwitz-Birkenau where the SS men were engaged in stealing
from the warehouses where the possessions, that had been confiscated
from the prisoners, were stored. In the course of his investigation
in which he spoke to many of the prisoners, Dr. Morgen also claimed
to have learned about the gassing of the Jews, not at the main
Auschwitz camp, nor at Birkenau, but at Monowitz.
In his testimony at Nuremberg, Dr. Morgen
claimed that, although gas chambers existed at Monowitz, the
SS was not involved in this crime. Dr. Morgen testified that
the gas chambers at Monowitz were not under the jurisdiction
of the SS and that the order to build these gas chambers had
come directly from Adolf Hitler, who had given this order to
Wirth of the Kripo (Criminal Police), who was not a member
of the SS, according to Dr. Morgen. Wirth had previously been
in charge of the T-4 program in which severely disabled and retarded
people had been gassed. Wirth later became the first commandant
at the Belzec death camp, one of the three Aktion Reinhard camps
under the jurisdiction of Odilo Globocnik.
On August 8, 1946, Dr. Morgen testified,
as follows, at the Nuremberg IMT regarding the "extermination
camp" at Monowitz:
Then the trucks left. They did not
go to the Auschwitz concentration camp, but in another direction,
to the Monowitz extermination camp, which was some kilometers
distant. This extermination camp consisted of a series of crematoria
not recognizable as such from the outside. They could be mistaken
for large bath installations. Even the detainees knew it. These
crematoria were surrounded by barbed wire and were tended on
the inside by the Jewish working groups already mentioned.
The Monowitz extermination camp was
set apart from the concentration camp. It was situated in a vast
industrial zone and was not recognizable as such. Chimneys smoked
all across the horizon. The camp itself was guarded on the outside
by a detachment of Balts, Estonians, Lithuanians, and by Ukrainians.
The entire procedure was almost entirely in the hands of the
detainees themselves, who were supervised only from time to time
by a subordinate officer (Unterführer ). The execution itself
was carried out by another Unterführer who released the
gas into that place.
Dr. Morgen's testimony is included in
IMT vol. XX, p. 550 - 551.
In a deposition,
given to the British shortly after he was captured, Auschwitz
Commandant Rudolf Hoess confessed that there was a gas chamber
at the Buna Works at Monowitz. However, in an affidavit signed
by Rudolf Hoess, which was entered into the proceedings of the
Nuremberg IMT, the Buna Works was not mentioned as a location
for a gas chamber.
The following excerpt is from the deposition
originally given to the British by Hoess:
In 1941 the first intakes of Jews
came from Slovakia and Upper Silesia. People unfit to work were
gassed in a room of the crematorium in accordance with an order
which Himmler gave me personally.
I was ordered to see Himmler in Berlin
in June 1941 and he told me, approximately, the following:
The Fuhrer ordered the solution of
the Jewish question in Europe. A few so called Vernichtungslager
are existing in the General Goverment:
Belzec near Rawa Ruska Ost Polen
Treblinka near Malkinia on the River
Wolzek near Lublin
The Buna Works
The Wolzek camp near Lublin was probably
a reference to Sobibor which was one of the three Operation Reinhard
camps in the General Government, as occupied Poland was named
by the Nazis; the other two Operation Reinhard camps were Belzec
and Treblinka. The Buna Works was at Monowitz, which was in the
Greater German Reich, not the General Government.
Sgt. Charles Coward was a British POW
who had been captured in May 1940; he was sent to Monowitz in
December 1943. Sgt. Coward testified at the Nuremberg International
Military Tribunal regarding the gas chamber at Monowitz.
The following excerpts are from Sgt.
Coward's testimony and affidavit as reported on this web site:
Affidavit Copy of Document NI-11696, Prosecution Exhibit 1462
COWARD: I made it a point to get one
of the guards to take me to town under the pretense of buying
new razor blades and stuff for our boys. For a few cigarettes
he pointed out to me the various places where they had the gas
chambers and the places where they took them down to be cremated.
Everyone to whom I spoke gave the same story - the people in
the city of Auschwitz, the SS men, concentration camp inmates,
foreign workers - everyone said that thousands of people were
being gassed and cremated at Auschwitz, and that the inmates
who worked with us and who were unable to continue working because
of their physical condition and were suddenly missing, had been
sent to the gas chambers. The inmates who were selected to be
gassed went through the procedure of preparing for a bath, they
stripped their clothes off, and walked into the bathing room.
Instead of showers, there was gas. All the camp knew it. All
the civilian population knew it. I mixed with the civilian population
at Auschwitz. I was at Auschwitz nearly every day...Nobody could
live in Auschwitz and work in the plant, or even come down to
the plant without knowing what was common knowledge to everybody.
Even while still at Auschwitz we got
radio broadcasts from the outside speaking about the gassings
and burnings at Auschwitz. I recall one of these broadcasts was
by Anthony Eden himself. Also, there were pamphlets dropped in
Auschwitz and the surrounding territory, one of which I personally
read, which related what was going on in the camp at Auschwitz.
These leaflets were scattered all over the countryside and must
have been dropped from planes. They were in Polish and German.
Under those circumstances, nobody could be at or near Auschwitz
without knowing what was going on.
COWARD: The figures indicated 11 and
12 were known to us as the concentration camps, and when I mentioned
about the gas chambers or crematoriums, I mean to infer that
I had visited what was shown to me to be a gas chamber some distance
from the railway station at Auschwitz.
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