Documents on the deputy commandant of the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz,
On January 28, 1999 "Samuel Crowell" offers this commentary on the Hans Aumeier materials posted on this Website.
I FIND this one of the more credible narratives of gassing that I have seen. The reason I find it credible is that Aumeier discusses the introduction of gassing more or less ad hoc as a strategy for controlling epidemics and second restricts it to those incapable of working or effecting a speedy recovery. This is much better than those accounts that insist that gassing was introduced as part of the "Final Solution" and that it was applied immediately to all Jewish internees.
However, there are still grave problems with his account, the most notable being that it contradicts the current standard story in almost every particular. For example, Aumeier times the first gassing in the late Fall of 1942, and involving sick Jews in the morgue of Crematorium #1. The current narrative represents a combination of narratives that describe one (or two) gassings of mostly Russian POW's at the beginning of September, 1941. There are other details that don't seem to make sense.
However, in lieu of a more detailed exposition, I would make the following observation: my study suggests to me that interrogations were made on the basis of existing reports concerning the concentration camps, including Auschwitz. By July, 1945, there would have existed four narratives that could have formed the basis of Aumeier's interrogation (and yes, there are contradictions among them):
#1 The War Refugee Board Report, issued November, 25, 1944, compiled from various sources [Vrba], and still completely anonymous at that time,
#2 The roughly similar Soviet Extraordinary Commission on Auschwitz, issued May 6, 1945, compiled from various sources, the primary materials of which do not survive,
#3 The Gerstein Statement, which in one form or another had been publicized in the French press in July of 1945,
#4 The amended affidavit of Josef Kramer, commandant of Belsen, former commandant of Birkenau, who had originally deposed in April or May 1945 denying any knowledge of gassings, but who amended his testimony in July 1945 to say that there had been "a gas chamber" (note singular) but that he had no control over its operation.
My hypothesis is that a detailed analysis of Aumeier's deposition will show that most if not all of its "gassing elements" can ultimately be traced back to one or another of these other narratives. I have found this to be a consistent pattern elsewhere.
The greatest problem I have with Aumeier's narrative, as with most gassing narratives, is that it is not supported by a single unambiguous reference in the documentary record. Another, even more serious problem has to do with chronology of the gassing claim in his recounting. If, as Aumeier insists, Himmler ordered that gassing begin in the Fall of 1942, that would have been several months after the British media -- including the BBC -- had begun accusing the Germans of carrying out such gassings. We then would have the odd situation where the Germans would be adopting a manner of killing undesirables that was first suggested to them by British propagandists, and moreover under the severest cloak of secrecy and double-talk. I find that very difficult to believe; in fact, I cannot believe it. -- Samuel Crowell.