Exterior of Auschwitz I Gas Chamber


Outside entrance into gas chamber in 1998

The photo above, which shows one of the two entrance doors into the Krema I gas chamber in the Auschwitz main camp, was taken in October 1998 on a guided tour. At that time, tourists were told that this was the entrance used by the prisoners when they were herded into the gas chamber.

The problem is that this door was not cut into the building until after the gas chamber was converted into a bomb shelter by the Nazis in the Fall of 1944. In their award-winning book entitled "Auschwitz 1270 to the Present," authors Robert Jan van Pelt and Deborah Dwork include a copy of the blueprint for the plans to convert the crematorium into an air raid shelter. The blueprint shows that the door in the photo above was added in 1944.

The gas chamber building at Auschwitz I was located outside the barbed wire fence which surrounds the barracks, but inside the grounds of the camp. The door shown below is on a camp street, in close proximity to the office of the Commandant. The bomb shelter was for the SS men and this new door was a more convenient entrance for them. The building for the camp Political Department (Gestapo) was right next door to the gas chamber building and the SS hospital was across the street.

Door for bomb shelter was cut in 1944

The photograph above shows another view of the entrance, taken in 1998. The outside door opens into a tiny vestibule, the floor of which is level with the walkway leading up to the door. Inside the vestibule, a door on the left opens into the gas chamber, which had been converted into a bomb shelter by the time the camp was liberated by the Soviet Union on January 27, 1945. The outside door, shown in the photo above, has a peephole with no glass. Anyone looking through this peephole from the outside would only be able to see the back wall of the tiny vestibule.

The two things sticking up on the roof, as shown in the photo above, are chimneys or vents over the area where two of the cremation ovens are located. Barely visible in this picture is the faint trail up the grassy slope on the right side of the entrance, made by visitors who have climbed up on the roof to see the holes through which the Zyklon-B gas pellets were dropped into the gas chamber below. The building is on level ground, but dirt was piled up against the outside walls in order to keep the bodies in the morgue cool.

According to Jean-Claude Pressac, who wrote "Auschwitz: Technique and Operation of the Gas Chambers," the location of the crematorium in the main camp was formerly the site of a kitchen. Other sources say that the crematorium was constructed by remodeling an ammunition depot.

According to van Pelt and Dwork, no Jews were killed in the Auschwitz I gas chamber during all of 1941, when the only prisoners that were gassed were Soviet Prisoners of War. According to a book by Danuta Czech, the last gassing in Krema I was in early December 1942. "The last victims were several hundred prisoners of the Sonderkommando in Birkenau who were employed in the killing operations."

According to a book entitled "Auschwitz" which I purchased at the museum, gassing was discontinued in the Auschwitz I gas chamber in March 1942 and the whole process was moved to Auschwitz II or Birkenau where two old farm houses, known as the "little red house" and the "little white house," had been converted into make-shift gas chambers, known as Bunker 1 and Bunker 2. The two farm houses were used for gassing until March 1943 when the gas chamber in Krema II at Birkenau was put into operation.

The crematorium at Auschwitz I continued to be used to burn corpses until July 1943 when four new crematoria were in full operation at Birkenau.

Gallows where Commandant Rudolf Höss was hanged

The photo above shows the reconstructed gallows on which Rudolf Hoess, the Commandant of Auschwitz, was hanged on April 16, 1947. The steps on the far right in the photo are the original steps of the building which housed the Political Department (Gestapo branch office). One can see the outline of where the building once stood. The reconstructed gallows stands on the spot where the Political Department building used to be.

The small hole in the ground with an arched covering over it, located next to the street, is a one-man air raid shelter for an SS guard to jump into, in case there was no time to make it into the air raid shelter in the former gas chamber. There are several of these shelters scattered around the Auschwitz I camp. During air raids the prisoners would take cover in the basements of the barracks buildings.

The Auschwitz complex was targeted by the Allies, not because the Jews were being gassed here, but because the factories near the camp were extremely important to the German war effort. In 1944, Auschwitz I received a direct hit from Allied bombs and one of the barracks buildings was damaged.

Gallows with crematorium chimney in background on the left

The photo above shows another view of the gallows with the gas chamber and crematorium building behind it to the left. The brick building in the background is one of the SS buildings outside the camp. The tall brick chimney is a reconstruction of the one that was used for the cremation ovens. The reconstructed chimney is not connected to the reconstructed ovens inside.

Gallows where Commandant Rudolf Hoess was hanged

The photo below shows the SS hospital which was directly across the street from the Auschwitz gas chamber. The gas chamber is behind the camera to the right. From the windows of this building, the prisoners who worked there could witness the SS men on the roof, wearing gas masks, as they poured Zyklon-B pellets through the holes into the gas chamber.

Early morning shot of the SS hospital across from the gas chamber

Door into Air Raid Shelter


Start of Gas Chamber Tour

Reconstructed Gas Chamber

Interior of Reconstructed Gas Chamber

Holes in ceiling of gas chamber

Holes on roof of gas chamber

Introduction to Auschwitz I

Back to Photo Gallery 2


This page was last updated on August 12, 2007